Take a closer look at the famous picture above – “The Love Letter” by Federico Andreotti. Have you heard your heart beating when somebody said three magic words – I LOVE YOU? Your food can also do the same – it can make you happy.
But the happiness diet is not one month project, it’s a lifestyle. Money, family, and the work you like – all is very important to enjoy your life, but at least 70% of your personal happiness is at the end of your fork. Seriously. Food is directly linked to your brain which creates your “state of happiness” and vitamins A, B12, D, and E, folate, iodine, magnesium, calcium, iron, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for that.
Maybe in different words, both ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience say the same “happiness starts in the stomach”. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the food you eat is directly connected with your health and happiness. When the food has been completely digested, a very subtle essence known as OJAS is created causing our mind-body system experience the joy, pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction. Indeed that substance exists, a few, actually.
You are what you eat. By changing or correcting your daily menu, you can stabilize your mood, improve your focus, and boost your brain health, all while trimming your tummy. The Happiness Diet is an easy and delicious way to shape up and feel fantastic.
Hormones of happiness
Modern science says that there are four major “hormones of happiness” – DOSE:
Each of them makes you happier in its own way.
Dopamine is a natural opioid drug that our brain injects into the nervous system to ease the pain. The effects of drugs such as cocaine, nicotine or amphetamines are, directly or indirectly, related to an increase of dopamine levels in the brain. But you shouldn’t be a drug addict to boost your dopamine level. You can do it naturally. Since dopamine is synthesized from tyrosine, an amino acid, you can simply eat foods rich in tyrosine – the best injection of the “hormone of happiness”.
Tyrosine rich foods for dopamine production
Although dopamine is found in many types of food, it is incapable of crossing the blood–brain barrier that surrounds and protects the brain. Therefore, it must be synthesized inside the brain from the building blocks – amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine (with tyrosine being the most common).
There are plenty of food sources rich in tyrosine and phenylalanine that your brain needs in order to create dopamine, but grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish are the best of the best.
The recommended daily intake for phenylalanine and tyrosine is 25mg per kilogram of body weight, or 11mg per pound.
Below is a list of foods highest in tyrosine which is presented as amount of milligrams per 100 grams of food with the percentage of recommended daily intake Daily Value – % DV
- Cheese (Parmesan) – Parmesan contains 1995mg of tyrosine per 100g (228% DV)
- Soy – Soy and its product contains on average 1497mg of tyrosine per 100g (171% DV), or 419mg of tyrosine per ounce (28g) (48% DV)
- Meat – Lamb and beef contain 1386mg of tyrosine per 100g (158% DV), and lean pork chops – 1228mg and 140%, respectively.
- Salmon – A 100g serving of salmon contains 1157mg of tyrosine (132% DV).
- Chicken – A 100g serving of chicken, like a serving of salmon, contains 1155mg of tyrosine (132% DV).
- Eggs – One egg has 250mg of tyrosine (30% DV).
- Beans and lentils – 274mg of tyrosine per 100g or (31% DV) have been found in beans and lentils.
If you are in a good mood, you’ve got serotonin to thank; if not – you’ve got serotonin to blame. The major amount of serotonin exists in the intestine, and is governed by your state of hunger. Feel happier after lunch? That’s why. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and biochemical precursor for serotonin. It cannot be produced in our body and must be part of our daily diet. Serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract – about 90% of the human body’s total serotonin is located there. Serotonin also has some cognitive functions, including memory and learning.
Tryptophan rich foods for serotonin production
The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight (1.8mg per pound). So, a person weighing 70kg (about 154 pounds) should consume approximately 280mg of tryptophan per day.
Here is a list of foods highest in tryptophan (milligrams per 100 grams of food with the percentage of recommended daily intake Daily Value – % DV):
- Pumpkin seeds – 576mg of tryptophan per 100g (206% DV), or 161mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (58% DV)
- Soy – 575mg of tryptophan per 100g (205% DV), or 161mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (57% DV)
- Cheese – On average, 560mg of tryptophan per 100g (about 200% DV), or 150mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (about 50% DV)
- Meat (lamb, beef, pork) – 415mg of tryptophan per 100g (148% DV)
- Chicken – 404mg of tryptophan per 100g (144% DV)
- Fish – 335mg of tryptophan per 100g (120% DV)
- Oats – 335mg of tryptophan per 100g (120% DV)
- Shellfish – 330mg of tryptophan per 100g (118% DV)
- Eggs – 167mg of tryptophan per 100g (60% DV), or 84mg (30% DV) per egg (50g)
- Beans and lentils – 115mg of tryptophan per 100g (41% DV)
Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone because it is released through closeness with another person. But it is not necessarily to hug somebody (especially a beautiful stranger); it can also be triggered through social bonding, like eye contact or a love letter.
Endorphins are our internal opioids – “endogenous morphine” that are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Endorphins help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria. They are released during periods of strenuous exercise, emotional stress and orgasm. Endorphins are neuropeptides and like other proteins, they are synthesized from amino acids. Food does not supply our body with ready-made endorphins; it helps to produce them by providing with amino acids, energy, minerals and vitamins that are required for the endorphin synthesis.
Importance of folic acid for synthesis of the “hormones of happiness”
Folic acid, or simply folate, is a B9 vitamin, which is essential for synthesis of the “hormones of happiness”. Folates cannot be synthesized de novo or stored in the body. Therefore, folic acid has to be supplied through the diet on regular basis to meet the daily requirements. Folates occur naturally in many foods. Dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach and dried legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are naturally good sources of folate. In Canada, folic acid is added to all white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal products. A lack of dietary folates can lead to folate deficiency, which can result in many health problems, and mental confusion, forgetfulness, mental depression, irritability, and behavioural disorders are among them.
Vegetables rich in folates
Many vegetables and fruit contain folic acid (or vitamin B9, or folate) that is of vital importance in the “happy hormones” production. The list can be very long, just to mention a few:
- Artichokes, cooked – 79-106mcg of folates per 125ml
- Asparagus, cooked – 80-88mcg in 4 spears
- Avocados – 81mcg in ½ fruit
- Baby soybeans cooked – a 125-milliliter (ml) serving (1/2 cup) contains 106-255 micrograms (mcg) of folates
- Beets, cooked – 72mcg of folates per 125ml
- Black beans – 157-218mcg of folates per 175ml (3/4 cup)
- Broccoli, cooked – 89mcg of folates per 125ml
- Lentils – 265mcg of folates per 175ml (3/4 cup)
- Lettuce – 65-80mcg of folates per 250ml
- Papaya – 58mcg in ½ fruit
- Potato, with skin, cooked – 48-66mcg in 1 medium potato
- Spinach, cooked – 121-139mcg of folates per 125ml
- Spinach, raw – 61mcg of folates per 250ml
Red beets deserve your special attention. They contain “betaine” which has been suggested to regulate levels of neurotransmitters that improve your mood. Beets also contain tyrosine, so they are a double whammy of raising dopamine.
Remember, balanced diet plays a vital role in making you happy.