10 foods to boost happiness

20 April 2017 by
First published: 6 October 2016

Having a bad week? Try munching on these 10 foods to boost happiness levels. As food not only has an effect on your outside appearance, but also on your mood and hormones too. Changing your eating habits and specific choices can help to lift your mood, making you feel happier and more energised. Who wouldn’t want to feel like that every day?


These are packed with vitamin B12 – a nutrient that most of us lack – as well as many nutrients such as zinc, iodine and selenium, which helps to regulate your thyroid. Vitamin B12 helps the brain to function properly, improving clarity and concentration, giving a sharper and more alert sense of focus.

Greek yoghurt

Did you know that Greek yoghurt contains more calcium than milk or regular yoghurts? Calcium is not only great for building strong, dense bones, it’s also brilliant for our mental health. In fact, scientific research has shown that those suffering from calcium deficiency can also suffer from disorders such as irritability, anxiety and depression.

Plus, having a happy, healthy gut is also key to good mental health, so it’s important to eat plenty of friendly bacteria from sources like yoghurt. Lily Soutter, nutritionist and weight loss expert, explains: ‘90 per cent of serotonin is located within our gut, with only 10 per cent in the brain. Our gut is jam-packed full of bacteria that has a strong positive influence on serotonin production, which relays information to the brain.’


Get ready to feel good with folate, as according to scientific research, it’s one of the best vitamins to have within your diet, and spinach is full of it! This leafy green will do wonders for your mood, so eat up.

Dark chocolate

You’ll be pleased to know that eating for your happiness isn’t all fruit and veg. As a matter of fact, cocoa can improve blood flow to the brain – helping you feel full of life. Unlike the artificial sugars found in most chocolate bars, dark chocolate can provide an instant boost that isn’t followed by the sugar slump you may find with milk and white chocolates. Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at superfoodUK.com says: ‘Chocolate contains magnesium, one of the nutrients needed for the production of serotonin, the primary hormone responsible for good mood.’ However, she warns: ‘don’t overindulge in comfort foods, especially very sugary or high-GI foods, as this will only make you feel worse later on, as your blood sugar level drops, and it can also lead to weight gain.’


As well as having an incredible nutrition value, eggs also contain decent amounts of vitamin D, B6, calcium and many more vitamins that fight to prevent illnesses like depression and anxiety. Shona explains: ‘eggs are a great source of protein, which when broken down in the body will make amino acids and these are then used to make neurotransmitters to help keep our mood balanced.” Poached for breakfast or scrambled for lunch, these mood pepper-uppers are super easy to add into your diet whatever the time of day!


Who would have thought that pomegranate or pomegranate juice could make a difference to feelings of sadness and depression? Studies show that the juice, taken daily, can help to reduce the feelings of depression because it’s packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that boost serotonin levels in the brain. In addition to naturally boosting your overall health and protection from diseases, pomegranate has also been known to boost your libido.

Oily fish

Best known for protecting the heart, the list of health benefits that omega-3 fatty acids have are forever growing and now there’s evidence to support that foods rich in omega-3 can even change our behavior. Shona emphasises: ‘try to eat oily fish twice a week or snack on chia seeds, as fatty acids are great ‘brain’ food and can help to fight mood swings.’


Turkey is surprisingly a great mood-booster. According to Shona: ‘Your body makes serotonin (the feel-good brain chemical) from an amino acid called tryptophan, which is an important amino acid for battling depression. Tryptophan occurs naturally in turkey, dairy products, dried dates and soya.’ She also suggests for that extra happiness boost you should consider: ‘consuming a small amount of carbohydrates with tryptophan-rich foods that can increase the absorption rate and conversion to serotonin.’


Now that you’ve heard of the happy hormone serotonin, it makes sense to eat foods that are rich in it right? Cue: bananas! These are also packed with the amino acid tryptophan. Lily shares: ‘by boosting serotonin, we can ultimately boost our mood.’ However, if you’re not a fan of bananas, Lily explains that: “Kiwis, plums, tomatoes and walnuts are also a good alternative.’

Green tea

Can drinking green tea help to reduce stress? It sure can! ‘Green tea is an excellent healthy mood booster,’ says Shona. ‘It contains some caffeine, which gives you a bit of a lift, but also contains the amino acid theanine. This can have a relaxing effect and may help to relieve anxiety and mental stress, potentially by increasing your levels of serotonin, dopamine (responsible for reward and pleasure), and gamma-aminobutyric acid (which has a relaxant effect).’ So a green tea a day keeps the stress away. Best to get sipping!