Anxiety, depression, and mood swings are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults. While they are easily manageable and treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. Studies have shown that the food we eat can alter our moods and bring about positive change in our lives.

Enlighten created a list of foods to eat and avoid in order to stay happy and positive. You’ll easily find them all at your local store, so you can add them to your weekly meal plan, giving yourself and your family a boost of happiness!

Potato chips vs popcorn


Easy to get and tasty to eat, it’s no secret that potato chips are an unhealthy choice when it comes to snacking. They’re fried in saturated oil full of omega-6 fatty acids. These acids make you feel low by blocking the mood enhancing omega-3 fatty acids. For happy feelings try munching on popcorn. Popcorn is rich in carbohydrates which causes your serotonin levels to soar, making you feel happy and relaxed.

Milk chocolate vs dark chocolate

Dark Chocolate contains anandamide, a compound that aids in making you feel calm and relaxed. It is also known to block feelings of pain and sadness. For best results, try chocolate with at least 72% cacao and less than 5 grams of sugar. Research has shown that after enjoying dark chocolate, people are more likely to help others.

Non-organic bananas vs organic bananas


Bananas contain mood-enhancing elements like Vitamin B6 and dopamine. Eat one in the morning to keep you happy throughout the day. Make sure that the banana is organic as the pesticides often sprayed on non-organic fruit and vegetables contain a generous dose of neurotoxins which can adversely affect your mood.

Soft drinks vs green tea


We all know that soft drinks aren’t good for our health, but they are not good for our moods either. These drinks contain a high concentration of carbohydrates which can instantly boost your mood. But this raised sugar-level comes crashing down faster than it goes up, giving you a giant mood swing. As an alternative to soda, try green tea. Theanine present in green tea helps fight anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed.

Ham vs salmon


Processed meat usually comes from animals that are not fed healthy food. Moreover, they are often injected with preservatives, nitrates, and dyes which are known to cause depression and mood swings. Instead, go for salmon as it contains vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, two nutrients that have been shown to increase levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners vs honey


There is no denying that sugar tastes good but it is certainly not healthy to consume. And while the health-conscious among us might avoid sugar to tea or coffee, it often secretly sneaks into our diets in the form of granola bars, bread, and toothpaste. Eating sugar can momentarily provide us with bounds of joy albeit, short-lived. When the effect of sugar wanes, it can lead to anxiety and depression. Consuming a lot of sugar also decreases the body’s ability to fight off stress. A healthy alternative would be to use honey or maple syrup. Honey contains kaempferol and quercetin that prevent depression by reducing inflammation in the brain. Maple syrup contains minerals and plant antioxidants that promote good health.

Salted nuts vs cherries


Cherries are a rich source of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep well. Cherries are also natural painkillers and can make you feel relaxed. So instead of gorging on salted store-bought peanuts which often contain high levels of sodium and MSG (monosodium glutamate) that are known to cause headaches and mood swings, try eating cherries.

Deli meat vs turkey


Cold cuts might seem to be an easy and tasty food option but the preservatives, colorings, and additives that are in them could leave you with headaches and mood swings. Even though it might be time-consuming, it’s much safer to cook raw meat and slice it up yourself.

Soy yogurt vs spinach


Soy yogurt, also known as yofu is made by adding yogurt bacteria to soy milk. It certainly helps your digestive system but the omega-6 fatty acid present in it blocks the mood enhancing omega-3 fatty acid. Spinach, on the other hand, is rich in omega-3 and folates which regulate our mood by boosting levels of the happy-hormone, serotonin in our bodies.

Salt vs black pepper powder


Experts warn us that eating too much salt is related to high blood pressure which as we all know often results in our mood going into a tailspin. Black pepper powder is another seasoning that can be added to your food but unlike salt, it won’t make you depressed. In fact, black pepper contains the compound, piperine which has been found to fight depression and increase the cognitive function of the brain.

Bonus: Drink a lot of water!

If there is one magical drink for the body, it’s water. Drinking an optimum amount of water not only keeps the body healthy but it also helps fight anxiety and depression. A 2015 study conducted by scientists from the US and France concluded that the higher the amount of water a person consumes, the more likely they’ll be free of depression and tension.

Which happy-mood-food did you choose today? Let us know in the comments.