What foods increase happy hormones that help fight depression

What foods increase happy hormones that help fight depression
The word depression is used rather callously these days without realising the serious nature of the disease. Unfortunately, we have yet to discover a vaccine for this silent killer, which respects neither age nor sex.

While there is a lot you can do to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing, the story really begins in your gut. A healthy gut leads to the production of happy hormones and eliminates depression and anxiety.

The gut is directly related to your brain. It is why feelings of anxiety or nervousness often originate in the gut as some kind of discomfort. Due to its sensitive nature, negative emotions like anger or anxiety can trigger symptoms in the gut.

So yes, to a large extent, you are what you eat. Your elevated moods and high energy levels have a direct correlation to the food you consume, which in turn impacts your gut health. 

As a macrobiotic nutritionist, I come from school of thought which talks about harmony and balance in all areas of our life. This harmony is achieved especially through our choice of food. 

The food you eat activates your emotions and is directly related to your physical and mental health. You would be amazed at how easily you can impact the feel-good hormones in your body with the right choice of food. The result is an increased sense of wellbeing and emotional stability.
However, the opposite also holds true. Foods with high sugar or starch content can instantly spike your blood sugar levels but the high is short-lived and leads to an eventual crash. 

So reaching for that chocolate pastry or bag of chips may not be the wisest choice to fuel your body as it can only lead to mood swings and feelings of anxiety.


Dopamine – It is responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. 
Serotonin – Increases positive moods. Its levels are reduced in depression.
Oxytocin – It plays a major role in infant-mother bonding, romantic attachments etc.
Endorphins – It helps relieve pain and stress and is released in activities which give pleasure. 

Spicy food has been known to trigger the release of endorphins. Food like yoghurt, beans, eggs, lean meat and almonds help release dopamine. Green tea and probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut can also impact hormone levels positively.


1.  Asparagus- It is one of the top plant-based sources of tryptophan which boosts serotonin levels in our body. It also has high levels of folate, which is found deficient in many patients of depression. 

2.  Avocados- The fruit is full of Vitamin B3, a serotonin boosting vitamin and mood stabilisers like omega-3 fatty acids.

3.  Cherry tomatoes - The lycopene in their skins is an antioxidant that protects the brain from the build-up of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression. 

4.  Dark chocolate – It is rich in antioxidants and is a natural mood booster. It also stimulates the release of endorphins by the brain.
5.  Nuts and seeds - They contain tryptophan, which boosts serotonin levels. They are also rich in antioxidants, which lowers risk of depression.

6.  Fruits – Pineapples, bananas, kiwis and plums are all high in serotonin.

7.  Salmon - It is rich in tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin B12 and B6, which aids in serotonin production.

8.  Spinach – Leafy greens like spinach contain magnesium, which helps boost energy. 

9.  Foods containing probiotics – Foods like yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut can also impact the release of happy hormones.

10.  Water – It plays a big role in keeping our bodies hydrated and functioning at an optimal level. 

11. Vitamin C-rich foods – Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, berries and amla are mood boosters. 

12. Black Beans – They are rich in magnesium which helps boost serotonin. They are also packed with many other nutrients.

13. Beetroot – Beets contain betaine which helps in serotonin production. They also contain folic acid, a mood stabiliser.

14.  Swiss Chard - Another green loaded with magnesium.

15, Kale – This green contains Vitamin C, potassium, iron and B6, all of which are happiness boosters.


1.  Simple carbohydrates/sugar like chocolates, sweets, biscuits, cakes and high sugary drinks like packaged fruit juices – Can lead to a sudden spike in sugar levels which can increase anxiety levels and depression.

2.  Caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee and colas - Can aggravate anxiety levels and depression.

3.  Processed foods – Leads to fluctuating sugar levels and frequent mood swings.

So, a recipe for the depressed? What is needed is a diet which is satisfying, boosts your energy levels and puts you in a good mood. 

Once you understand this vital connection between what’s on your plate and your moods, you too can make a conscious choice and eat your way to a state of happiness and good health. 
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