The Happiness Diet

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We’ve all heard about how the foods we eat can affect our weight, our cholesterol and blood pressure, but what we eat also contributes to our overall mood and mental health.

Eating for our mental health is the basis for a book, The Happiness Diet. Normally, I don’t like to promote these kinds of books as they tend to focus on one small bit of science and promote it as a cure all for everything. Although I have not read it, I am in agreement with the idea of preparing basic food at home over eating highly processed, convenience foods.

One of the authors, Dr. Drew Ramsey, has extensive experience helping patients improve their mental health, such as depression, anxiety, irritability and poor concentration, by prescribing a different kind of diet. He explains that the Modern American Diet contains mostly processed foods which increase levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings and more. To reverse the effects and sustain a happier and healthier lifestyle, he recommends adding his top five mood boosting foods into your diet:

  1. Wild-caught salmon and shrimp. This is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids which are essential because they are anti-inflammatories warding off problems such as anxiety, brain fog and ADHD, all caused by brain inflammation.
  2. Cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes are high in folate and magnesium, both used to treat depression. In addition, they contain iron, tryptophan and vitamin B6, the main ingredients needed by your brain to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters. 
  3. Chile pepper. While capsaicin, found in these spicy peppers, sets our mouths on fire, it cools our body and fights inflammation, which in turn releases endorphins, giving off a calming effect.
  4. Beets. These root vegetables are one of the best sources of vitamin B which are crucial for a good mood and memory. They are also packed with betaine which our brain uses to form SAM-e, a natural antidepressant. 
  5. Garlic. Star of the allium family of vegetables, they promote proper blood flow to the brain. They relax blood vessels which deceases blood pressure preventing small strokes in the brain, a major cause of depression.

Making delicious meals following this lifestyle is not difficult. Here are three Happiness Diet-approved meals:

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables:

(Serves two-three)

  • 1 medium organic chicken
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 1 turnip
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • ¼ bottle of white wine (or 2 cups chicken stock)
  • ½ stick butter

Wash the chicken in cold water, and pat dry. Let it warm up to room temperature for 30 minutes while prepping the rest. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop the carrots, onions and turnip and place in a large bowl. Mix with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and the juice from the lemons. Stuff the chicken with rosemary, vegetables and lemon rinds and place in a baking dish. Smear a thick coat of butter over the chicken and then cover with salt and pepper. Pour the wine (or chicken stock) into the pan. Place pan on the middle rack and cook for an hour.

Happy Wild Salmon

(Serves four)

  • 2 pounds wild-caught salmon steaks, deboned
  • 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • Pinch of brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Sprinkle salt and pepper over salmon steaks and let sit for a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, brown sugar, lemon juice, mustard and olive oil. Bake the salmon for 10-15 minutes in a baking pan. Remove the salmon and let sit for 10 minutes. Top salmon steaks with half of the sauce and pour the remainder of the sauce into a serving vessel.

Ginger Mackerel

(Serves four)

  • Olive oil
  • 2 lbs. mackerel fillets
  • 1 medium fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ½ tsp. salt

Coat the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil. Rinse the fish fillets in water, then gently pat dry with paper towels. Place in the dish. Mix together ginger, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Cover the fillets with the mixture and let them sit for 10 minutes. Place under a broiler for 10-15 minutes or until the fish flakes.

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