When most people crave comfort foods, they want carb-heavy meals that include pasta or potatoes. And it makes sense. Carbohydrate-rich meals may be responsible for increasing our levels of serotonin—one of the body’s mood-elevating chemicals. But loading up on carbs isn’t the only way to boost your mood with food. Here are 4 delicious options to include in your balanced diet that will help fight depression and keep your brain happier:

  1. Fish. You may already know that fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna that are high in omega-3s are good for your heart, but they may also be good for your mood. Omega-3s are linked to the release of serotonin and dopamine—our “feel good” brain chemicals. While serotonin protects against depression, dopamine is the “reward” chemical our brain releases during pleasurable experiences like sex or eating.
     
  2. Coconut. Just the smell of coconut may be enough to slow the heart rate and lower the “fight or flight” response of people under stress. Eat fresh coconut meat, drink coconut water or enjoy any food with a strong scent of coconut to unwind at the end of a stressful day.
     
  3. Chocolate. Science finally supports what chocolate lovers have known for a very long time: Eating chocolate makes you feel good. Studies show that people who ate 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate every day over a two-week period reduced their levels of cortisol and other stress hormones.
     
  4. Leafy Greens. Dark-green leafy foods like kale, Brussels sprouts and spinach are rich in folate, an important brain chemical needed to synthesize mood chemicals. A study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that boosting the levels of folate in patients who were depressed helped to improve their mood. Looks like Mom was right, those vegetables are good for you.