What are Joyful Foods? Top 5 Model Foods for Fighting Depression & Anxiety

Everyone wants to feel good. Because when you feel good, you think good, you do good. That's that. Joyful foods are foods that lively up the body, mind and soul. Joyful foods bring joy obviously. They make you feel good, and as a consequence, everyone around you. 

Okay I have a list of what joyful foods do, and a joyful food must have most of these qualities to qualify:

  • accelerate digestion safely
  • boost metabolism and create energy
  • give the brain a boost
  • reduce inflammation
  • redox the cells through antioxidant activity
  • regulate blood sugar (no blood sugar spike leading to hangover or let-down)
  • activate positive, balanced neurotransmitter activity (tryptophan which leads to serotonin + melatonin)

Having a good amount  of these 7 qualities makes a joyful food. I'll go ahead and say processed foods are out. Of course. Along with meat (because meat slows digestion) excepting fish, and also anything with added sugars. So because you know processed foods are out, anything with trans fats is out, obviously. 

As for stimulants, there's only one case where the food is stimulating, and I'll let you know when we get to it. The food is wonderful but a major stimulant component: caffeine. But always with these joyful foods, the good outweighs the bad big time. 

We'll talk a little bit about what might be needed for these 7 qualifications: 

  • When it comes to promoting healthy digestion, some things needs to be present like fiber, which is so important for accelerating digestion. We're talking about 2 types of fiber: soluble (think oatmeal and other grains that grow in water) and insoluble (think celery and bell peppers which you could leave in water for a while and it would not absorb into the fiber). So we'll focus on fiber here.
    • Also what would be awesome is some probiotics. If we could get some little life into these foods to colonize the gut, fight the "bad" bacteria, produce short-chain fatty acids and vitamins and regulate the immune system, I'd think we'd really consider it a joyful food. 

 

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  • For boosting metabolism and producing energy, I'm thinking we'll need to target B vitamins (major catalysts for energy conversion) and thyroid-enhancing nutrients like selenium and a little bit of iodine (not too much because we don't want to swing it the other way). Iodine is needed for thyroid hormone function and synthesis. The thyroid is so very important for metabolism. It is actually the control center of metabolism: the body's temperature, the conversion of food to energy. If you've ever known someone with hypothyroidistic issues, you know that one of her issues is usually weight gain and lack of energy (and much of the time, depression). This is because unused energy sits heavy in the body when it can't be used. It literally feels like a weight on you. Making you heavy and slow. 

 

  • For giving the brain a boost, we'll have bring in some fatty acids of course. But not just any fatty acids, the Omega-3s are what you want. You are already getting plenty of Omega-6s and probably Omega-9s too. Olive oil is a nice Omega-9. And who doesn't use olive oil? Avocados are omega-9s too. But the most rare part of the equation, the part of this Omega ratio you most likely are not getting enough of: Omega-3s. If you take a fish oil, this is a very nice place to start and a wonderful idea. 
    • Omega-3s are wonderful for reducing inflammation. And DHA (Omega-3 found in fish is especially awesome for brain health). Fat, good fat, in general is very good for the brain since the brain is made of fat. In fact, the whole nervous system depends on fat to protect the nerves. Actually, cholesterol is necessary for brain health and hormone synthesis. Healthy fats are good. Let no one scare you away from fats ever again. Unless it's trans-fat and then you may run for the hills. 

 

  • As for reducing inflammation, a food would have to have a substance shown to reduce inflammation like curcumin or gingerols or Omega-3 fatty acids (see above). It would have to be something powerful because inflammation is a beast. How does reducing inflammation make 

 

  • Antioxidants are going to be big for reducing your toxic level. I know you've been there like I have. I can always feel when my body is overly toxic. A joyful food works to redox my cells, to clean house to reverse free radical damage. I feel more youthful, freer, more energetic when I've been eating antioxidant-rich foods. There are many different kinds of awesome antioxidants like flavonoids or isoflavones or quercetin or polyphenols or lutein or glutathione or vitamins A, C, or E. 

 

  • The main nutrients for regulating blood sugar are fiber (already said that for digestion!) and protein. Chromium is a good nutrient to reduce blood sugar, along with cinnamon. I'll go ahead and tell you: chromium is in oatmeal, barley, broccoli, etc. Those things are obviously good for you, but they won't be listed. Though oatmeal and broccoli are most always on the nice list for my clients. 

1. Eggs:

Obviously eggs are loaded with protein, and anything with protein is going to regulate blood sugar. Selenium is an awesome antioxidant that's present in eggs and is also a nutrient that helps the thyroid. Lutein is another antioxidant in eggs that is huge for keeping good health. Plus, eggs have about 5 g of fat (brain health). Not only are they packed with vitamins and minerals, they contain choline which is a B vitamin! Studies have shown that memory is enhanced because of the choline! 

The stupid fad of the 90s that said eggs were bad is over, and thank god. The cholesterol in eggs is something to be celebrated! Cholesterol is something that comes to repair parts of the blood vessels that have been damaged by inflammation, and that is how plaque build-up happens in arteries. The culprit of CVD is not so much the cholesterol, the culprit is inflammation which is caused by bad fats, sugars, and processed foods. Remember that. You need cholesterol. 

Top those eggs with some nutritional yeast (B vitamins galore) and you're set! 

2. Pumpkin seeds:

As a seed, they have a beautiful amount of fiber. DIGESTIVE FREEDOM! And protein too = blood sugar regulation. Fiber also = digestive freedom. We are winning all over the place with pumpkin seeds. Not to mention Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant. And other free radical scavenging badasses. And protein because it's a seed. Also zinc which is good for the thyroid and other minerals like magnesium, copper and manganese. 

3. Fermented red cabbage:

Red cabbage for sure. Whether you ferment it or not. First off, the flavonoids are strong in red cabbage. Just look at that deep purple color--oozing with phytonutrients. Vitamin A is another antioxidant that not only protects against degeneration, but is a powerful chemical for the whole body, especially for the immune system. 

Vitamin C protects against and calms inflammation.

The fermentation will promote a probiotic boost in the gut. The microbiome will be stronger than ever. The good guys keeping the bad guys in check. Eating fermented cabbage is especially helpful if you've recently taken antibiotics, which can basically always make you feel weird or even depressed afterward. We depend on the flora for so many things, and the gut truly affects the brain. We depend on that flora for vitamin-production and gut function overall. In addition to the probiotic factor, they contain insoluble fiber which is a food for the bacteria in your gut. 

We could go on and on about red cabbage, but I don't want to overload. But let me just say: it's worth it to work it into your diet. 

4. Avocados:

Fatty acids (omega-9) plus a boss amount of fiber, plus a boss amount of potassium (important for reducing blood pressure and excellent for heart health), plus a good amount of protein for a veggie which makes this mushy, green wonder a treat. 

Again, vitamin E antioxidant abounds. And C (collagen boost). Plus, folate, which is considered a B vitamin (BOOM) and riboflavin (also a B vitamin). Don't forget iron which helps to deliver oxygen to red blood cells. 

A lot of fiber too. 

5. Walnuts: 

ALA is an Omega-3 that eventually turns into DHA and EPA through a process in the body. Walnuts have it. Plus, they look like brains so they have to be good for the brain, right? Double right. Walnuts contain melatonin which is an antioxidant that nourishes the brain and helps to regulate the body's clock. And fiber and a plethora of vitamins and minerals like relaxing magnesium, copper, and manganese. Plus an awesome amount of fiber to run that gut + protein = blood sugar control. And antioxidants like vitamin E and other polyphenols. Whew.

The heart and the brain will be nourished with this nut so there's no way that we can't win here. 

 

Some other foods that are badass at making you feel good, getting your brain right and relieving anxiety and depression: bananas (fiber, mag, tryptophan {serotonin}), dark chocolate (antioxidants and endorphins), and ginger (gingerols are anti-inflammatory).

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You have something to say, I can feel it. What are some foods that make you feel good? Oysters? Salmon? What? We want to know to comment below.

Related: 5 Foods Causing Inflammation: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory Diet

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