“You are what you eat” is a common saying but when you really think about it, it seems pretty weird. Will I turn into that croissant I just had? Not necessarily. The nutrients in our food affect various functions of the body. But will it really affect my mood? Well, while we can’t say it’ll solve everything, these are seven foods that are proven to promote happiness.

What do you mean?

A symptom of depression is increased levels of inflammatory markers within the brain. That same chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, chronic depression and Alzheimer’s. Foods such as white bread, margarine, red meat, processed meat, and fried foods can contribute to inflammation if consumed in very high quantities. However, certain foods have been proven to reduce that inflammation in addition to having other mood-boosting properties. Plus they just taste good. Here are a few...

1. Salmon

A key nutrient in salmon is omega-3 fatty acids, which our body doesn't produce naturally. Omega-3s are a part of the membranes that surround the cells and especially of those in the brain. In a study done by Dr. Hibbeln (of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), there is a significant connection between countries that consume large amounts of fish and low rates of depression.

salmon, smoked salmon, oil, lemon
Jocelyn Hsu

2. Berries

Berries are high in flavonoids which help regulate mood and improve memory, in addition to reducing inflammation. Anthocyanins, which make berries the bright colors they are, work with other compounds to block enzymes that short-circuit communication between brain cells. On a side note, berries are vitamin-c right foods which improve the absorption of other nutrients into your body.

juicy, berry, berries, stems, boxes, strawberries, strawberry, Green, Red, sweet, Summer, farm, Organic, Fresh, Fruit
Katie Kasperson

3. Dark Chocolate

So it's healthy to eat… chocolate? The answer is yes! The cocoa in chocolate contains flavanols which help to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow (lowering that high blood pressure from upcoming midterms). Other studies suggest a link between eating cocoa and a reduced risk of heart disease and you guessed it-- inflammation. However, it comes with a catch. Harvard recommends 1-2 small squares in a serving and 70% dark chocolate or higher to get the most flavanols. So... all good things in moderation?

baking chocolate, sweets for eats, dark chocolate, chocolate on wood, chocolate
Cory Cole

4. Dark Greens

Dark greens such as spinach and kale are some of the best go-to sources for iron (they provide oxygen to your cells which creates more energy). Dark greens are also rich in magnesium that positively impacts serotonin levels and boosts your mood. Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety.

spinach, cabbage, salad, pasture, lettuce, vegetable
Caroline Ingalls

5. Almonds

Deez nuts sure do! You know why the outside of an almond is darker than it's inside? It's because of antioxidants. As a source of antioxidants, almonds help protect against oxidative stress (imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants), which can damage molecules in your cells and increase inflammation. Also high in vitamin e which build up in cell membranes in your body and protect your cells from oxidative damage. High in magnesium, almonds help to lower blood pressure levels.

nut, cashew, meat, hazelnut
Kirby Barth

6. Green Tea

Pinky's up! It's tea time! Green tea is high in polyphenols that reduce inflammation in the brain. Catechins, an antioxidant, helps prevent cell damage among other benefits. The caffeine in green tea blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine, this increases the firing of neurons and an accumulation of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Also, studies have proven that caffeine consistently leads to an improved mood. As if that wasn't enough is that green tea has I-theanine which has anti-anxiety effects and increases dopamine too.

genmai cha, loose leaf tea, green tea, tea, tea pot
Jocelyn Hsu

7. Coffee

Never thought the thing you can't stay awake without also was really healthy too? Coffee contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds that protect against inflammation. The caffeine in coffee, like green tea, can boost mental focus and alertness, protect against Type-2 diabetes, and decrease the risk of depression.

coffee shop, afternoon, Breakfast, hot coffee, hot, coffee beans, foam, heart, rainy day, warm, Cavo Coffee, cavo, cortado, coffee
Sierra Orsak

In conclusion...

So “you are what you eat” really is pretty true. Maybe your mom was right, you might be able to see through walls with those carrots after all. But in all seriousness, the nutrients in the food we eat effect various functions of the body in various ways. But will it really effect my mood? Well, while we can’t say it’ll solve everything, these seven foods are proven to promote happiness. If you are ever feeling like you're in a slump, try eating some of these foods. And these foods, in addition to others, can make an impact on how you feel.