raw salmon, slices of lemon and fresh basil on cutting board

Top 5 healthy foods you should be eating now

What you eat has a powerful impact on how you feel. Make sure you're cooking with these healthy ingredients.

How does food affect mood? Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, help the body produce neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that control functions such as mood regulation. For example, the amino acid tyrosine is involved in producing dopamine, the “pleasure hormone,” and norepinephrine, which helps regulate the fight-or-flight response to stress. Serotonin, the “happiness hormone,” is primarily produced by bacteria in the gut. Foods rich in fibre, probiotics, micronutrients and antioxidants all support a diverse microbiome of healthy gut bacteria, which is linked to higher levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters and therefore improved mood, concentration and motivation and decreased anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are also key nutrients for mood and brain health.

1. Citrus fruit

Lemons, oranges, clementines and other citrus fruits strengthen our immune defenses thanks to their vitamin C content. They also contain polyphenols and flavonoids, which protect the brain from oxidative damage that is linked to mental disorders like depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.

A bowl of yellow soup on a doily

Recipes using citrus

2. Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring are rich in the essential fatty acid omega-3, which is crucial for brain health. The tryptophan and vitamin D in salmon both also help you feel your best.

A dish of salmon on a green tabletop with dressing on the side.
Photography, Valéry Guedes

Recipes using salmon

3. Watercress

Leafy green vegetables like watercress are nutritional powerhouses—they’re rich in vitamin C, folate, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, carotenoids and flavonols. A diet high in vegetables also promotes a healthy microbiome, which can boost happiness.

A bowl of ramen from above

Recipes using watercress

4. Lentils

Lentils and other pulses (dried beans and chickpeas) are a staple in the Mediterranean diet, as are fish, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. The Mediterranean diet is associated with better mental well-being, lower rates of depression, anxiety and cardiovascular-health issues and increased longevity.

lentil-soup-tofu
Photography, Valéry Guedes

Recipes using lentils

5. Ricotta

Dairy products like ricotta are high in whey protein, which contains the amino acids tryptophan and glutamine. Tryptophan is involved in serotonin production and thereby increasing happiness, and glutamine can reduce anxiety and promote a feeling of calmness.

Photography, Bob Deutscher

Recipes using ricotta

 

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