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Feel Good Foods (Recipes to Elevate Mood)

Do you ever feel bogged down? Lethargic? It could be due to a variety of reasons including illness, stress, or lack of sleep. But there are times when you rule all of that out and you still don’t know what could be the cause. Often times, it comes down to what you’re eating. So, what can you eat to lift your mood and create calm? I'll tell you ways you can improve your mood with food.

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Did you know that the food you consume can directly affect how you feel? Certain foods aid in creating the building blocks of healthy chemicals in your brain that can lift your mood. I’ll share with you some great food options and recipes for making you feel fantastic..

Serotonin and dopamine are two of the main chemicals released in your brain that help provide positive feelings. There are many more in your brain, but these are the two you can focus on finding in your diet.

Increases of serotonin levels have been correlated with bolstering self-esteem, feelings of worthiness and the sense of belonging.

Similarly, the release of dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and reward. The reason why dopamine is also called the "feel-good neurotransmitter".

Foods that Elevate Mood & Create Calm

Low levels of serotonin have been studied as having a correlation with depression and anxiety. So it makes sense to search for foods that will provide you with the boost you need to keep your mood elevated.

What types of happy food should we add to our daily meals?

The natural way of increasing serotonin levels is by eating foods that contain tryptophan, which is converted in the body to serotonin. Since serotonin is not naturally occurring in food, the foods to seek out are tryptophan-containing foods which include:

  1. Egg

  2. Cheese

  3. Milk

  4. Soy

  5. Salmon

  6. Nuts & Seeds

  7. Turkey

  8. Spinach

When dopamine is released in your brain, it affects the areas responsible for reward and pleasure. But much like serotonin, it is not a chemical that’s readily available in food. Which foods contain what’s needed for the production of dopamine?

Tyrosine is an amino acid (protein) that your body converts to dopamine and is readily available in certain food.

Phenylalanine also turns into tyrosine, which means phenylalanine containing foods are also an option to increase your dopamine levels. Note that those suffering from phenylketonuria should take tyrosine supplements instead of consuming phenylalanine.

  1. Beef

  2. Pork

  3. Chicken

  4. Fish

  5. Soy (Tofu)

  6. Milk

  7. Cheese

  8. Beans

  9. Nut & Seeds

  10. Whole Grains

You will find 29 Dopamine Diet Recipes here ranging from various soups, salads, noodle dishes, and entrees. If you're looking for more specific recipes for what I listed above, here are some delicious tryptophan & tyrosine-containing recipes.

Egg yolks contain the serotonin precursor, tryptophan. What's wonderful about cooking with eggs are that they're so versatile. Eggs can be scrambled, fried to top a burger, baked into a quiche, dropped in soup, and so much more. A fun way to make eggs for breakfast or brunch is to make it into a cloud.

egg cloud recipe

Are you looking for more recipes? Check out these 45+ easy egg recipes for your best brunch ever.

croque madame lox poached eggs

2. Cheese

Cheese is an excellent source of tyrosine & tryptophan. If you're a cheese-lover, you can find anything to add cheese to - lasagna, toasties, cake, eggs, and so much more. Here are 40 of the best cheese recipes in the world

tea sandwiches open faced healthy cheese


3. Milk

One way to have a tryptophan & tyrosine-dense meal is to make macaroni and cheese using the obvious ingredients: milk and cheese. Here's a simple baked mac and cheese recipe.

macaroni and cheese

4. Soy

If you're vegan or vegetarian, or maybe you're like me and just love soy products, there are plenty of tasty means to consume soy and keep your mood elevated. For one, you can add soy milk to your diet by adding it to your cereal or coffee. Here are 38 easy tofu recipes that both vegetarians and meat lovers can enjoy.

tofu salad corn tomato edamame cabbage scallion cucumber

5. Salmon

While salmon contains tryptophan, it also contains loads of other nutrients that are great for you including omega-3 fats to reduce inflammation, help with weight control, and aid in heart and brain health.

Try adding salmon in the form of lox on toast for breakfast (with a side of milk and eggs) or try a baked salmon entree for dinner. You could even toss it in your salad for lunch. Here are 45 healthy salmon recipes that you'll make over and over again.

salmon baked healthy pomegranate asparagus dinner

6. Turkey

Turkey dinners have always been infamous for causing sleepy time afterwards. Tryptophan is a precursor to not only serotonin but also melatonin, the chemical in your brain that helps you to fall asleep.

That may be why those Thanksgiving turkey dinners can lead to an immediate nap time or it could be due to the many carbohydrate side dishes that come along with the meal. In either case, you're bound to be in a happy mood afterwards.

You can add turkey to a lighter meal by adding it to a sandwich, salad, or a kofta. But I know I can never refuse turkey in a hearty meal such as a stew or meat pie. Here are 39 turkey recipes to keep your turkey-eating creative.

turkey dinner carving healthy thanksgiving roasted

7. Spinach

Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables are a source of tryptophan. You may not find as much tryptophan in spinach as you would in the other foods listed above, but it's easy to incorporate spinach into your everyday meals using these 40 flavour-packed ways of using fresh spinach.

spinach salad greens leafy vegetables lemon

Now that you know how food can affect your mood, there's an importance to making sure we consume a balanced diet where the foods listed above are incorporated. I challenge you to introduce at least one serving of one of the following foods to each meal: egg, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, soy, fish, turkey, or spinach. Then, monitor how your mood improves over time by keeping track in something like a mood journal. Feel free to leave a comment below to share your experience.

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