Foods you must eat to stay happy

There is a way to cut stress to size through your diet.

 |  Hello, Health  |  3-minute read |   14-03-2016
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Depression and chronic stress don't just play on our mind, they can lead to multiple physical problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, hypertension and cardiac problems, and now a recent study has pointed out its tie-in with cancer too. This "bad" news is serious enough to jolt everyone out of the "stress is a way of life and depression is just a mental disorder" mindset. About time too, as according to this research chronic stress disrupts our entire being down to the cellular level (that's how it possibly leads to cancer).

I have been thinking that there has to be a way to cut stress to size via food. No, not via comfort junk eating, but through some specific "happiness" nutrients that we can include in the diet on a daily basis to keep stress at bay. Just like we ensure eating iron and calcium rich foods.

Well, apparently there are some such happiness (boosting) nutrients that can help big time. This is my list:

1. Magnesium tops the list. This not much written about mineral is essential for production and functioning of the feel good chemical serotonin in our brain. Which is why it is also known as the anti-stress, anti-anxiety mineral. Plus it helps one sleep better.

darkchocolate_wide-e_031416112202.jpg Dark chocolate (www.npr.org) 

It's easy to score: just ensure any two of these - dark leafy greens, nuts (cashews and almonds), seeds (pumpkin, sesame), beans (including edamame), lentils, fish (mackerel), whole grains (brown rice), bananas, dried figs, and dark chocolate - daily in your diet.

2. Get the amino acids advantage. Focus on these three:

Tryptophan that converts to serotonin in the brain.

Tyrosine which is needed to increase the production of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, the neurotransmitters that increase our energy levels and feeling of well being.

sprinkling-cheese-on_031416112019.jpg Eggs for breakfast. (crazyadventuresinparenting.com) 

Zero in on dairy, nuts, fish, poultry, and eggs. Yes, that's why an egg breakfast makes you feel good about life and milk before sleeping eases out the stress knots in your soul.

green-tea-home-healt_031416112731.jpg Tea (listaka.com)

Also ensure enough theamine, an amino acid with mind relaxing properties found in tea leaves. Go sip some calm.

3. Omega-3 fats are not just great for cutting free radicals in the body, they also act on an area of the brain which improves our mood and attitude. In fact its deficiency symptom includes fatigue and mood swings. Get your omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna or from plant sources like walnuts, sesame and flaxseed.

3687_031416112407.jpg Walnuts (www.healthfitnessrevolution.com)

4. If you are already downing warm lemon water with honey even morning, here's another reason to continue: The vitamin C in it can help begin your day happy (C is vital for the production of serotonin). Guavas, amla, strawberries, kiwi and citrus fruits like oranges and lemon are other brilliant sources.

lemons_031416112521.jpg Lemons (www.find30.com.au)

5. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin not just because sunlight helps us make it in our body but also because it is literally the sunshine (happiness) vitamin. If you're feeling blue, increasing vitamin D could actually help ward off depression. So say hello to sun every day without fail for a minimum of 20-30 minutes.

health-fitness_02_te_031416112541.jpg The sunshine vitamin (www.timesofmalta.com)

6. Finally, the B vitamins, the entire spectrum - thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), choline (B4), pyridoxin (B6), folic acid (B9) and cobalamin (B12) are vital for our happiness and mental health. B1 combats stress, B3 fights against depression, B6 helps make serotonin and norepinephrine, which affects mood, and vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 work together to improve mood and mental health.

greens_031416112647.jpgGreens (www.goodtoknow.co.uk)

B9 deficiency has actually been linked to depression and B4 with lack of concentration and poor memory. Eat enough of lentils, peas, dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, eggs, sunflower seeds, pistachios, prunes, bananas and low fat dairy to get them all.

Make staying happy a priority. Eat happy foods every day.

Writer

Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico).

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