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Can “Happy Foods” Really Boost Your Mood? Here’s What Science Has to Say

By Margaret Manning February 26, 2015 Health and Fitness

Recently, we’ve seen a number of claims on popular websites that “happy foods,” such as chocolate and coffee, can improve your mood. On the surface, these claims seem to good to be true. After all, who wouldn’t like to believe that having a Kit Kat with your morning coffee is the path to positivity and happiness? So, we decided to see what science has to say on this subject.

Are Happy Foods Too Good to be True?

At Sixty and Me, we are not usually fans of simple explanations to complex problems. For example, finding friends after 50 is not just a matter of “getting out there”. In addition, finding happiness requires way more than positive thinking. At the same time, sometimes simple steps can help us to develop healthy habits and, over time, these habits start to add up.

Take food for example. Everyone knows that eating healthier is good for your body. But, did you know that there are foods that have been shown to make people happier? To be clear, I’m not saying that eating dark chocolate and broccoli every day will solve all of your problems. But, when combined with exercise and a commitment to following your passions, they may just give you the little extra boost that you have been looking for.

Let’s look at 6 foods that can boost your happiness, according to science…

Lighten Your Mood with Dark Chocolate

I can’t help starting with my favorite. Dark chocolate is great for your body on so many levels. For starters, it contains chemicals called polyphenols, which have been shown to have mood boosting properties.

According to this article in Women’s Health, dark chocolate may also help you to maintain a healthy heart, lose weight, and reduce your diabetes risk. If you do decide to add dark chocolate to your happiness diet, just make sure that you choose a bar that has at least 70% cacao. In general, the darker, the better!

Happy Foods - Eat your way to happiness: Lighten your mood with dark chocolate

Beat the Blues with Broccoli

Ok, after talking about dark chocolate, this one may not be quite as exciting. But, if you want to beat the blues, broccoli may be part of the answer. Broccoli contains small amounts of chromium, a mineral that has been shown to help your brain release its own natural happiness chemicals.

If you can overcome your childhood hatred of broccoli, it may just be able to help you feel better every day. And, as a bonus, broccoli is great for the rest of your body too!

Happy Foods - Eat your way to happiness: Beat the blues with broccoli

Tell Your Brain to Stop Clamming Up with Clams

This may not be applicable to everyone, but, if you are suffering from low levels of vitamin B12, eating clams may help you to get your brain back in balance. Clams contain significant levels of vitamin B12, which means that they can be part of the solution.

Happy Foods - Eat your way to happiness: Tell your brain to stop clamming up with clams

Kick Depression with Coffee

According to a study by Harvard University, coffee may help to reduce your risk of depression. The study showed that women who drank 2-3 cups of coffee per day were 15% less likely to become depressed than people who didn’t drink any coffee.

Of course, coffee is a stimulant, so, you should always be careful not to consume too much at once, but, including coffee in your daily routine may be one of the simplest ways to kick depression before it takes hold.

Happy Foods - Eat your way to happiness: Kick depression with coffee

Give Yourself a Pomegranate Pick-Me-Up

By the time we reach our 50s, we know that, when it comes to people, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Well, apparently, the same is true for fruit. Pomegranates may look somewhat ugly on the outside, but, on the inside, it’s full of depression fighting chemicals. So, why not make pomegranate juice a part of your daily routine? Your body and brain will thank you!

Happy Foods - Eat your way to happiness: Give yourself a pomegranate pick-me-up

Add a Little Sunshine to Your Life with Salmon

Does your mood in winter feel as cold as the snow outside? Why not brighten your day with a little salmon? Salmon contains vitamin D, which is also produced by our bodies when we spend time in the sun. But, if you are not getting enough vitamin D the old fashioned way, adding foods like salmon, tuna, or mackerel may also help you to feel happier.

Happy Foods - Eat your way to happiness: Add a little sunshine to your life with salmon

Obviously, none of the foods in this article are going to make you happy by themselves. But, maybe they can give you a simple place to start your journey to a happier and healthier life after 50.

Happy Foods - 6 Foods that Can Boost Your Happiness According to Science

Which of the “happy foods” mentioned here do you already enjoy? Are there any other foods that you have found give your mood a boost? Please join the discussion.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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