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"The Happiness Diet" Book Tells of Brain Foods that Boost Mood

Updated on February 6, 2014

The Happiness Diet is the title of a book by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey. It's subtitle is "A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body" In it you will find foods that will help boost mood and improve the brain -- the two are related.

Do you notice that more and more people have mood disorders such as anxiety and depression than in the past (say 50 to 100 years ago)? Just look at the statistics. Even kids have more mood disorders. Around 2% of kids are now taking medication for ADHD.[reference]

Could it possibly be due to the new foods that we are eating? Quite possibly it could be one of the contributing factors. The book starts of with a history of the "Modern American Diet" (which it abbreviates as "MAD"). Needless to say, the MAD diet is not so great -- and is the opposite of "happy".

The book, The Happiness Diet not only gives you 100 reasons not to eat processed foods, but it will update our conventional wisdom about nutrition.

It will tell you that cholesterol and saturated fat is not bad. And that corn oil is. For those who study nutrition, this is well known. But for those who only get nutritional information from television or on marketing labels of food products, this may sound shocking.

Bad Mood Foods

Much of what makes processed food so bad is that it contains many of the ingredients that contributes to bad mood. These mood busters are sugar and refined carbs and industrial fats like vegetable oils, corn oils, trans fats.

The book goes on to explained what has happened to our natural healthy meats, fish, and vegetables when they go through the industrial process of feed-lots meat, farmed raised fish, and pesticide sprayed vegetables.

Top Five Essential Nutrients for Good Mood

The brain needs certain essential nutrients, which are required for good mood. They are ...

  1. Vitamin B12: This is primarily found in animal products such as beef, seafood, eggs, and liver. Vegetarians should consume eggs and shellfish as long as one does not have food sensitivity to them. Vegans will need to supplement with vitamin B12.
  2. Iodine: Iodine is needed for good thyroid function. Good sources are of course seaweed. They are also found in fish and seafood and in egg yolk. Interestingly, they are also in cranberries, strawberries, and potato skins. It is best to get these fruits and tubers as organic since they are picking up the iodine from the soil. Navy beans and natural probiotic yogurt is another source of iodine. While some people claim that Himalayan Crystal Salt contains iodine, the amount is so small that you really need to get iodine from other sources besides it.
  3. Magnesium: Magnesium is the relaxation mineral which I talk more about in another article. Just know that you can get this from leafy green vegetables.
  4. Cholesterol: Yes cholesterol is an essential nutrients. So essential that our body makes most of its own cholesterol. Your brain loves cholesterol and the brain contains 25% of the cholesterol in the entire body [reference]. That is why some people with too low cholesterol (usually on cholesterol-lowering drugs) become depressed. Cholesterol is found in eggs (yes, again eggs yolk), and in meats.
  5. Vitamin D: Get this from natural sun exposure is ideal. But if your levels are tested to be low, consider supplementing as needed. More on vitamin D here.

Below is a longer list of these "happiness nutrients" as listed in the book ...

Found In
Vitamin B12
shellfish, fish, liver, beef, eggs
seaweed, fish, clams, shrimp, sardines, eggs, grass-fed meat and milk, potato skin
green leaves whole grains, salmon, beans
eggs, salmon, meat, milk, cheese, ...
Vitamin D
sunlight, fatty fish, butter, ...
sardines, milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, cabbage, collard, mustard ...
green leafy vegetables, cruciferous plants, ...
spinach, kale, black beans, ...
Vitamin A
liver, eggs yolks, shellfish, butter, whole millk
sardines, mackerel, salmon, free-range eggs, grass-fed meat
Vitamin E
almonds, olives, beet greens, turnip greens, collard greens, Swiss chard
shellfish, grass-fed beef, duck, dark chicken meat, liver

Note that you should be getting these nutrients from food and not necessarily supplements. In fact, in some cases there can be a negative effect to supplementation with calcium, iron, and vitamin E.

In general, men should not need calcium supplementation and may do harm. Your multivitamin should not contain iron. And it is better to get vitamin D from sunlight.

Top Five Focus Foods

What is good for the body is good for the brain. Chapter 5 gives us 5 "focus food" that helps our brains work better and focus better. ADHD (or Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the lack of focus. So we should get our kids to eat more of these. Because kids brain are still growing, they should not be restricting healthy natural fats nor cholesterol. But they should be restricting on bad fats such as trans fats.

Another book

Another great book about improving mood is The Mood Cure by Julia Ross.

These focus foods are ...

  1. Eggs, Grass-Fed Beef, and Milk
  2. Brussels Sprouts
  3. Grapefruit and Lemon
  4. Berries
  5. Anchovies

Actually, there are 7 foods listed there. But the authors couldn't decide whether eggs, grass-feed beef, or milk should be at the top. So they put them as tied for first. Note that it has to be "grass-feed beef", and not your typical meat from the feed-lot cows. And even better if it is "100% grass-feed" or "grass-finished" beef.

Notice that the top foods are eggs, grass-fed beef, and milk which are rich in healthy fats. Nature designed eggs and milk to support and feed the young because it knows that the young needs the nutrients in them for growing a brain.

For us adults, we should be eating them too, especially when we have lack of energy due to the heavy demands and stress of a modern lifestyle.

Top Five Energy Foods

Another chapter gives us the top five energy foods:

  1. Mesclun
  2. Drupes - coffee and chocolate
  3. Walnuts
  4. Red beans
  5. Blue- or red-skinned small potatoes

Mesclun is a mix of assorted small, young leafy greens as in a salad. Mesclun originated in France and its traditional mix includes chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces, and endive (all in about equal proportion). Chervil is "french parsley".

Drupes are fruits where the outer fleshy part surrounds a pit. The pit consists of a hardened shell with a seed inside.

Another Article on Brain Foods

You might also be interested in reading another article that lists various brain foods as linked here. In that article, it writes that good brain foods should be anti-inflammatory and filled with antioxidants. It lists ...

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Olive oil, avocado, flaxseeds
  • Spinach
  • Curry
  • Cocoa chocolate
  • Green Tea
  • Coffee

Note that many of the foods matches the ones mentioned in The Happiness Diet

Brain Sharpening Foods

Some of the brain sharpening foods that it list on page 97 are ...

  • Almonds
  • Blueberries
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Butter
  • Clams
  • Coconut milk and oil
  • Garlic
  • Grapefruit
  • Lard
  • Mussels
  • Onions
  • Pears
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts

Nutrition is Controversial

Obviously, nutrition is one of those controversial topics. This is due to the fact that there is a disconnect between what the advertisers are saying and what the nutrition researchers are finding out.

It is true that different individuals will have a different set of foods that are nutritious to them but not to others, and vice versa.

For example, eggs are healthy, but not for those who have an egg sensitivity.

Beef is great, but only if it is grass-feed. Chocolate is healthy, but only dark chocolate with high cocoa content (not milk chocolate). So yes, it can get complicated.

The book lists milk as a top focus food; while others say dairy should be avoided. And milk would not be so great for those with casein sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

In particular, the Paleo diet would avoid grains, dairy, and legumes. So milk as well as red beans would be out.

Potatoes are shunned by some diabetics due to the fact that it might raise their blood sugar. But for others, it would be a good safe starch.

I do believe that we need some animal products in our diets. I've read many references where some people have increase anxiety on a vegan diet. You can see these references in my article The Problem with Vegetarian Diet.

So it all depends on the particular individual. There is no one diet that fits all. You just have to read a lot about all the various nutritional views from the various nutritional books and find the right diet for your individual body.

The Happiness Diet is highly recommended and is one of those books that you should read.


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    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I like reading and writing about nutrition.

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 

      5 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      More people need to pay attention to this. Voted up and shared.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Food that increase energy, alertness and overall health - that seems logical. Now that explains why some are all cheery while others are just kill joy.

    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks for voting up.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is so interesting. Food is a complicated thing. Luckily I tend to eat all the good mood foods - eggs especially! Voted up, useful.


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