If someone were to ask what makes you happy, you would discover every topic from family, money, health, sex, friends, career, traveling, passions, religion, their pets, well you get the idea. These are the core of life’s happiness, but not all. Most likely, somewhere on this list of the elements of happiness is food. Unfortunately, the food most people have in mind when thinking of joy is probably not Brussels sprouts surveyed in my family as the most hated vegetable. This article will go over some of the foods that really make you happy and also have great health benefits!
That is unless, of course, said Brussels sprouts had yummy chocolate covering them. I think Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the 2003 movie “Elf” said it best, “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.”
We are Creatures of Comfort
We are unquestionably creatures that seek the pleasures of our five senses. According to just about every food study out there, pleasurable foods primarily consist of the not-so-good-for-you kind. Foods such as fast foods, foods high in sugar, fat, and low nutrients trigger an action loosely called stimulus and reward conditioning.
This conditioning is because super-pleasurable foods are high in dense calories or sugar, not to mention often convenient and affordable. Repeatedly reaching for harmful foods, over and over, can trick our brains into believing these meals signify, not only yummy goodness but that they are life-sustaining.
We live in times when food is plentiful, even a relaxing pastime in most of the world. We are not being hunted by man-eating tigers anymore or foraging for days on end to find a food source. Gone are the days of feast or famine. So, when we indulge time and time again on poor food choices, it triggers the release of pleasure neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
How Dopamine Make You Happy?
Dopamine is the chemical messenger between our nerve cells, managing motivation, arousal, motor control, and more. Basically, dopamine tells the brain how we feel. What do you think it is telling your mind after every yummy dessert?
David A. Kessler, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite and former head of the FDA, named calorie-rich, easily digestible foods hyper-palatable. He believes that yummy easy-to-eat foods direct the mind to want more of what makes it feel good.
There is a word for the brain’s chemical need to repeat a behavior to induce the pleasure response, and it’s called addiction. Similar activities may include but are not limited to drinking, drugs, gambling, really any action that provokes the release of dopamine.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Dr. Kessler remarked, “Conditioned hyper-eating works the same way as other ‘stimulus-response’ disorders in which reward is involved, such as compulsive gambling and substance abuse.”
Foods That Really Make You Happy
The ultimate goal of staying actively healthy is finding foods that make you happy for a lifetime and have dopamine respond more to what is beneficial for us, motivating the desire to want fresh, wholesome meals instead of dangerous food.
The following eleven yummy goodness foods eaten regularly will do just that for the body and they really make you happy, and guess what? It is not all kale and Brussels sprouts.
These darkly colored berries can decrease fat cells up to a whooping 73% that is a lot of poundage. Blueberries just so happen to be an excellent source of vitamin C, so if tomatoes, peppers, or salads are not your idea of comfort foods, then this might be an alternative. The pigment in blueberries is a source of resveratrol, an antioxidant that research published in Frontiers in Endocrinology associated with the relief from depression. Just the decrease in fat cells alone is enough to make anyone happy. TIP: Find a high-quality all-natural, no organic sugar juice for accessible health.
Being a nut, seed, and fruit coconuts are in a class of their own. However, because they top some of our favorite high-calorie desserts, coconuts have gotten a bum wrap. Did you know that coconuts are chock-full of the mood-boosting brain healthy medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs? Researchers at Yale and SUNY Albany have found that this tasty treat has a neuroprotective effect also meaningIt maintains neuronal structure and function decreases brain inflammation. Yeah, I had to look that one up too, and trust me being without a brain is not a happy thought. TIP: Use coconut oils for higher temperature frying due to its high smoke point.
Pure 100% pure organic honey is unlike refined table sugars. Packed with essential elements like quercetin and kaempferol honey reduces inflammation and can regulate your body’s blood sugar. Honey is antibacterial fending off illnesses and warding off depression. Tip: Want to know how to tell good honey from the refined, processed kind? 100% pure organic honey will not dissolve completely in water but settle to the glass’s bottom.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Need a little refreshing crunch to snack on in the evening? Pumpkin seeds are a super source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin in the brain. Serotonin has a calming effect on the brain, making it easy to relax and stay peaceful.
5. Greek or Icelandic Yogurt
These types of yogurt are packed full of calcium. Again you will want to buy 100% pure organic to have the calcium kickstart your neurotransmitters. Remember the dopamine activators which help create a sense of well-being? Both Greek and Icelandic yogurt are thicker, creamier, boasts more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. Which you choose is a matter of preference. Hey, but add honey, blueberries, and pumpkin seeds, and I bet either way yogurt will improve one’s irritability.
I know I know, but they are a part of a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle plan. All vegetables are mood-regulating, vitamin-packed, immune defenders for different reasons. Here are the most restorative and beneficial of the bunch: Cherry tomatoes, spinach, peas, asparagus, avocado (technically a fruit, but green 🙂 red peppers, collard greens, blue or purple potatoes, seaweed, sweet potatoes or yams, broccoli, chanterelles mushrooms, beets, kale, and yes Brussels sprouts. However, you can’t go wrong with any vegetable.
7. Grains, Beans, Rice, Seeds, and Other Nuts
The following are all good for you, antioxidant-rich, and loaded with other nutrients your body needs: black beans, whole grains, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, brown rice, and lentils.
8. Quality Proteins
Grass-fed hormone-free beef, 100% organically fed free-range chicken, eggs, sustainable reliably sourced halibut, crab, tuna, oysters, mussels, salmon, clams, and mackerel, proteins are an essential building block for the entire body, acting as a buffering system to maintain balance and rebuild healthy tissue.
9. Coffee and Tea
An Australian and New Zealand study published in the Journal of Psychiatry determined that the caffeine in coffee could help fight off depression and anxiety. As for tea, the naturally-occurring caffeine (especially in green tea) can boost epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG, which can improve the mood.
Fruit is high in fiber fruits are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals. Here are some top picks: bananas, raisins, oranges, lemon, limes, apricots, grapefruit, pineapple, grapes (try freshly frozen), watermelon, papaya, avocados (because it is where they belong), and olives (including olive oil).
Now for the top food, that should make you happy, regardless that it is also healthy for you.
11. Best Happiness Food – Dark Chocolate
Healthy dark chocolate really can be beneficial for you. Lower in sugars than milk chocolate, and packed with antioxidants, dark chocolate can be your go-to sweet secret.
A 100gram bar of dark chocolate that contains 70-85% cocoa has fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Experts recommend 1 – 2 oz, dose, or 30-60g of happiness a day. Now that is something that can make anyone happy.
TIP: Start with lower % cocoa rates and work up to the delicious but more bitter chocolate. If you start right out with a higher % rate and are not used to it, you might get discouraged, but don’t forget to move up. Oh, and yes, Brussels sprouts can be combined with the foods that will make you happy.
Finding foods that make you happy is part of living a wholesome lifestyle is a balance between eating anything you want and finding out what healthy foods trigger your dopamine response.
Regularly eating what you love from the choices above will change your brain’s wiring. Daily healthy eating will send your dopamine levels a clear signal that you want a healthier, happier version of yourself with wholesome, healthy eating choices.
About the Author
Lori Bogedin is a health and wellness writer and editor of TwigsCafe.com. She is in the restaurant business since 1999. In 2016 she was named one of the "Top Women in Business" by Northeastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.