Wondering if the notion of “comfort food” is just in your head? Well, it sort of is. Research shows that certain foods can trigger the brain to produce more feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. And that, in turn, can lift our spirits. If you’re feeling blue when away from home, order one or more of these mood-boosting choices.
Nuts. These and other protein-rich foods have high amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that affects the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that promotes feelings of joy and calm.
Eat this: Snack on a single-serving-size bag of nuts such as cashews, dry roasted pistachios, or almonds.
Carrots. A recent study found that the carotenoid levels in the blood of optimistic people was 13 percent higher than in the blood of negative folks.
Eat this: Aim for at least three servings of fruits and vegetables a day when you’re away. Ask for extra carrots on your salad or order an orange-hued side like sweet potatoes. That sunset color signals the presence of carotenoids.
Lentils. Many eateries offer vegan and vegetarian options, which means it’s easier than ever to find lentil-rich dishes. That’s great, because a cup of these legumes contains 358 mcg of folate—a B vitamin linked to a reduced risk of depression.
Eat this: Look for lentil soup or a lentils-and-rice side dish. No lentils available? Have some asparagus or chickpeas, which also contain folate.
Dark chocolate. Cocoa contains polyphenols—antioxidants that help lower blood pressure. That may be why study participants who drank a dark chocolate beverage each day for one month felt calmer and more content than a control group that did not have the chocolate drink.
Eat this: Enjoy an ounce of dark chocolate candy, or savor a chocolaty dessert. If it’s really rich (or big), share it or save half for tomorrow.