|Written by Lacy Boggs Renner|
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a phytonutrient that helps combat inflammation, which has been linked to stress. Interestingly, you'll get the biggest boost from eating cherry tomatoes, because most of the lycopene is in the skins, and the smaller tomatoes have a higher skin-to-middle ratio.
Purple PotatoesThese little gems used to be quite rare, but now they're popping up in grocery stores and restaurants everywhere you look. Purple potatoes contain anthocyanin antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation which contributes to bad moods. Purple or otherwise, don't peel your spuds; the skins contain iodine, which helps stabilize hormone levels from your thyroid and stave off mood swings.
Bananas contain tryptophan (yup, the same stuff that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner), a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, and serotonin helps make you feel relaxed, happy and in control.
Black-Eyed PeasThese little nutritional powerhouses are not just for good luck on New Year's Day. They contain more folate than any other vegetable, and in addition to being vital for pregnant women and women looking to get pregnant, folate also plays an important part in the creation of opamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, three brain chemicals that help regulate sleep, memory and your mood.
OreganoTalk to anyone into herbalism and they'll tell you that oregano is good for more than spaghetti sauce. The herb contains caffeic acid, quercitin and rosmarinic acid, which are all compounds known to combat depression, fatigue and anxiety. Plus, like most herbs, oregano is super easy to grow, whether in a spot in your yard or a pot on your windowsill.
Sunflower SeedsWhile the cheerful yellow flowers are practically a universal symbol of happiness, sunflower seeds are a great source of the amino acid phenylalanine which the body turns into the brain chemical norepinephrine—your own natural antidepressant.
NutsAs long as you don't have an allergy, nuts are practically the perfect mood-boosting snack. Their protein gives you energy, vitamin E helps combat stress, and the omega-3 fats they contain, in high doses, have been used clinically to treat depression.
ChocolateHey, there's a reason we crave chocolate when we're feeling blue, and it's called anadamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that's known to make us feel happier. But not all chocolate is created equal. Go for the best quality and darkest organic chocolate you can find to get the most benefits.
Good-Mood GorpLooking for an easy afternoon pick-me-up? For a flavorful boost on the go, make up a mix of your favorite nuts, a handful of sunflower seeds, dried banana chips and dark chocolate chips. Just a small handful will give you an otherwise midday slump energy boost and a dose of all that good stuff to help improve your mood.