5 happy foods that lift your mood without packing on the pounds

Think about your go-to remedy for when you’re having a down day… maybe a glass of Cabernet or some Ben & Jerry’s (straight out of the carton, of course!). Really, have you ever heard of anyone pining for a pint of kale and spinach salad after a crummy day? Me neither!

But there are healthier alternatives that really do help. So reach for these “mood foods” to help shake it off — before you send family and friends running for cover. Depending on your mood (sad, stressed or anxious), certain foods have mood-boosting compounds that produce varying effects.

Here are our 5 favorite mood-boosting foods to improve your outlook and bring back your happy:

GREEN TEA: This popular tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps you maintain clear thinking and cope with occasional stress. A daily serving of L-theanine through green tea can help retain a positive outlook…without causing sleepiness or drowsiness.

WHOLE GRAINS: Let’s hear it for good carbs! Whole grains such as whole wheat toast or natural popcorn can quell your nerves by triggering the release of tryptophan, an amino acid with a calming effect. In this case, though, don’t bog down the effect by adding protein or fat…they interfere with the process.

FISH: Okay…I know when you think “comfort food” salmon doesn’t top the list. But try it. Enjoy a surf and turf meal that includes salmon or tuna. Both are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep your brain and nervous system in tip-top shape (and better able to turn a foul mood around).

YOGURT: New research suggests that bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract help support a positive mood by communicating with the central nervous system. Occasional stress and frustration can reduce the amount of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. So reach for an organic, low-sugar variety and let the lifting begin.

CHOCOLATE: Yes, you CAN…but make it dark chocolate. Dubbed the ultimate mood food, chocolate is made from cacao, which contains flavanol antioxidants that trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. But you already knew that…

Don’t worry, be happy with every uplifting bite!