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Yes, you really can eat your way to happiness, but perhaps not in the way you might first imagine. By "happiness," I mean lasting happiness, not the fleeting kind of sensory happiness that might be experienced from sucking the cream filling out of a twinkie. And that's the distinction that really matters here: When I talk about happiness, I'm talking about sustainable happiness, not a brief moment of spurious excitement that soon reverses itself and leads to depression.

You see, a lot of people try to eat their way to happiness by eating the "instant joy" foods like ice cream, donuts, cookies and yes, even twinkies. Sugar can, indeed, make us momentarily uplifted because this refined molecule temporarily boosts blood sugar and actively alters brain chemistry. But like any drug, the depression after it wears off is far worse than the brief happiness it appeared to give us. And in the worst cases, we sometimes fall into a pattern of treating that mental rut with yet another hit of sugar to try to keep the happiness going.

This downward cycle of sugar dependence leads us to long-term obesity, diabetes and depression.

As author Timothy Brantley says in The Cure: Heal Your Body, Save Your Life:
"How did these foods affect their moods? Food Group A (Standard American Diet). The subjects all had radical energy fluctuations, staying in a cycle of having to manipulate to produce quick energy after a radical drop. The subjects all remarked that they never realized how addicted they were to sugar and other stimulants, like caffeine, simply to function. The roller-coaster effect on their energy swung them into high and low moods, and many of them got sick consistently."
The Standard American Diet is obviously not the solution we're looking for. But what works better?

Foods for long-term happiness

Fortunately, there are a huge number of other foods that promote long-term happiness. That's what this article is about: Sharing with you the good news on foods that can support healthy moods and promote a positive outlook on life for the rest of your life.

And I have to say that list starts with omega-3 oils. High-quality omega-3s provide one of the most powerful and sustainable boosts to healthy moods of any commonly-available food.

Read up on omega-3s at NaturalPedia.

You can get omega-3 oils from fish, quality marine oil supplements like Moxxor, chia seeds, flax seeds and other quality nutritional supplements.

Beware of grocery store foods that claim to be "made with omega-3s" because the actual quantity of omega-3 oils in those foods is usually so tiny that it hardly matters to your daily nutritional intake.

Enjoy healthy nuts

Pecans are extremely beneficial to supporting not just healthy moods but healthy brain function as well. It's the oils in the nuts that do the trick. Read more here.

Other nuts can also be strongly supportive of healthy moods in the long term: Almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts and walnuts all have powerful health-supporting properties that affect brain function and therefore mood experiences, too. Eat more raw nuts and you'll create better brain balance for the long term!

Adaptogens and green tea

Green tea seems to provide a subtle mood lift without all the problems of typical stimulants. Just make sure you're getting decaffeinated green tea, and check your source to make sure it doesn't suffer from fluoride contamination (some green tea products grown in certain countries have been known to carry a lot of fluoride).

Adaptogenic herbs are also very, very good at helping your neurology better handle stress. This can often translate into an easier day, reduced stress and improved moods. Adaptogens include ginseng, ashwagandha, rhodiola, cordyceps mushroom and many others.

Learn more about adaptogens at NaturalPedia.

Herbal tonics for mood support

While we're in the realm of herbs, there are several herbal tonic products that are well known to help support healthy moods. St. John's Wort has been clinically shown to work as well as antidepressant drugs to ease symptoms of depression. I usually take it with dandelion or yellow dock to provide additional liver support.

Learn more about St. John's Wort at NaturaPedia.

Several Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulas are also known to help support healthy moods. Chinese herbs are always used in combination, never in isolation, but one herb that's found in many mood-supporting formulas is Bupleurum.

The history and use of this herb is quite fascinating. Check it out here.

Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies

In addition to the omega-3 oils, nuts and herbs mentioned here, focus on consuming large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables. You simply cannot over-eat fresh fruits and vegetables, so eat all you want. They're loaded with mood-lifting nutrients that can also help prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Be sure to buy organic produce wherever possible!

What to avoid

This section can be summed up in just two words: Sugar, Caffeine.

Seriously. If you want to maintain healthy moods, it's crucial to avoid refined sugar and caffeine from all sources. That means no caffeinated coffee, no donuts, no cookies, no Pepsi, etc.

These two chemicals do more to destroy healthy moods in the long term than probably any other chemicals in the food supply. And yet, ironically, they are precisely the two chemicals that people reach for to try to get short-term mood lifts.

They do provide short-term boosts, much like a drug. Heroin might make you feel good in the short term, too, but it's highly addictive and causes huge health problems over the long haul. Sugar and caffeine are similarly addictive and problematic; except they're legal and you don't inject them with a syringe. (Well, at least I hope not.)

If you suffer from mood swings or depression right now, the first and most important change you need to make in your diet is to eliminate refined sugars and caffeine. The second change to make is to start bringing in mood-enhancing health foods such as omega-3s, raw nuts and lots of fresh produce.

But the really important step is to find new ways to enjoy your feed by expanding your experience of all the amazing tastes to be found in the universe of foods provided by Mother Nature. If you've never tried raw food cuisine, definitely check it out at a local raw food restaurant (or find a raw food chef in your area). You'll be amazed at the new spectrum of tastes and sensory experiences provided by raw foods -- and you'll experience huge long-term health benefits from the raw foods, too!

Stay happy with healthy foods

Yes, food can make you happy, but only if you focus on consuming health-enhancing foods that are natural, non-refined and packed with nutrients. Don't compromise your mental experience of life by turning to sugar, caffeine and other short-term stimulants. Or if you're on those right now, find ways to slowly transition off them while embracing some of the healthier choices I've covered here.

In the long term, you'll discover that healthy foods = healthy moods.

But give it time: It may take 30 days of eating right before you really feel the full effects with improved mood. Foods are not isolated chemicals that kick in right away. Transitioning to a healthier body and brain with healthy food takes some time. But it's time well spent. After all, you get to eat your way to a more positive outlook on life. And that sounds kinda fun anyway, doesn't it?