8 Healthy Foods That Make You Happy

When you think of comfort foods that make you happy, does your mind drift to mashed potatoes and mac ’n’ cheese? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t. Research reveals that certain healthier staples can soothe your soul and get you grinning. Incorporate these eight expert picks into your daily diet, and you’ll get more energy, less stress and an even brighter smile. Consider these your new happy meals!

1. Salmon


“The omega-3s found in salmon have been proven to boost mood,” says Lauren Slayton, a registered dietitian and the director of FoodTrainers, a nutrition center in New York City. These healthy fats don’t just put a smile on your face; they also help you keep it there: A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consistently consumed more omega-3s were 30 percent less likely to develop gum disease than those who got less. Don’t like seafood? Reach for other omega-3 sources, like flax and walnuts.

2. Avocado

Even if you’re not a guacamole fan, this green fruit can bring you happiness. “Avocados contain serotonin, a type of feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain,” says Slayton. Try using a few slices as a creamy substitute for mayo in sandwiches, or toss some cubes into your lunchtime salad.

3. Raisins

Although they’re known as nature’s candy, raisins are one sweet treat that won’t cause cavities. In fact, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry found that the healthy antioxidants in raisins helped slow the growth of two types of bacteria that set the stage for tooth decay and gum disease. Snack on a handful for an instant hit of energy.

4. Dark Chocolate

It’s no wonder many women consider chocolate comfort food. “Chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral that calms muscles and can relieve anxiety,” says Slayton. For an even bigger dose of the mineral, try satisfying your sweet tooth with dark chocolate–covered almonds.

5. Cereal

The next time you pick up a box, check to make sure it’s fortified with vitamin D. More than 60 percent of Americans don’t get enough of this sunshine nutrient, which has been shown to fend off the blues — especially during the dark days of winter. Pair those puffs or flakes with low-fat milk for a dose of bone- and teeth-fortifying calcium.

6. Green Tea

Feeling stressed? Brew some soothing tea. These green leaves contain L-theanine, an antioxidant that has been linked to relaxation. Sip a mug before that big meeting and you’ll score another benefit: fresher breath. According to research from Pace University in New York City, green tea’s polyphenols can destroy bacteria that lead to bad breath and tooth decay.

7. Yogurt

Scoop up a better mood with this calcium-rich snack. Yogurt contains probiotics, friendly bacteria that have been shown to ease depression. Plus, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology reveals that probiotics may reduce inflammation in the mouth, lowering your risk of gum disease and even oral cancer.

8. Popcorn

When you’re grumpy or sluggish, chances are you crave bread and pasta. “That’s because carbs increase serotonin levels in the body, which can put you in a better mood,” explains Slayton. But before you twirl up that spaghetti, snack on some popcorn. The whole-grain treat has the same beneficial effect — and at just 31 calories per cup, it won’t wreck your waistline.

What are your favorite foods that make you happy? 

Sharon Liao is an award-winning health editor and writer who has been on staff at Prevention, Fitness, and Reader’s Digest magazines. She has contributed to Seventeen and Weight Watchers Magazine, as well as The Intellectual Devotional: Health.

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  • Faigie , April 25, 2013

    The truth is I recently went Paleo and cereal and yogurt and popcorn are on the off list, so I guess they can't make me too happy.

  • Cascia Talbert , April 29, 2013

    Faigie, I don't understand your comment. Yogurt and popcorn are wonderful feel good snacks. Thank you for stopping by and leaving us a comment!

  • Marjorie Tipton , May 24, 2013

    I quite agree with popcorn, when eating them, it seems it can give a happy moment especially when watching some television show but we need to eat them in moderation, there are still many good food we can consider as an alternative which is a way healthier than popcorn.

  • Cascia Talbert , May 24, 2013

    Margorie, popcorn without extra butter and salt can be good for you. Yes I agree that you need to eat it in moderation. Thank you for visiting and leaving us a comment!

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