Have you ever had a rough day and opted to drown your frustrations in a giant bowl of ice cream or by treating yourself to a few cocktails? Seriously, who hasn’t done that at some, if not many points? Think back to the last time you indulged in that type of treat in an effort to make yourself feel better – did it work? Maybe while you were knocking back that Chubby Hubby, but how about shortly there after? Usually, the answer to that question is a sad “no”. The reason for that is well documented; sugar and other simple carbohydrates are linked to depression, anxiety, and failing memory.

But this news about sugar and simple carbohydrates doesn’t mean you can’t still reach for comfort food when you need a little culinary hug! There are many foods that will lift your mood. For starters, your gut bacteria (part of the microbiome) can literally be mind-altering. Adding a little bit of fermented food such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and other fermented veggies to each meal will help insure that your microbiome is made up of the little guys that produce serotonin and oxytocin – hormones that help balance out the mood and bring us happy feelings.

How about just adding more fresh vegetables and fruit? Multiple studies have shown that higher intakes of these types of fresh foods result in increased energy, calm feelings, and a greater sense of happiness and mental well being. Further, those study results noted that the effects were seen not just on the day participants consumed these foods, but throughout the following day. The magic number of servings of veggies and fruits came to 7 per day.

If you’re not coming close to that 7 servings per day for mood wizardry yet, it’s okay.  In fact, how about instead of putting focus on feeling guilty about how much sugar and carbohydrates you currently consume, you opt to add one more serving of vegetables or whole, fresh fruit per day? Take your time, each serving you add will be beneficial! Not a fan of salads? No worries, you can sneak veggies into smoothies and soups. Try cutting some up and dipping them in hummus or a sugar-free dressing you like. You can work more leafy greens into your sandwich or wrap. It’s doable! And as you fill up on these happy-making foods, you’ll have less room for the crazy-making ones.