Foods to Naturally Boost Your Mood

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While millions of Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, and countless other mental disorders, there are powerful tools that we don’t utilize nearly enough in treatment and prevention – food and nutrition. Natural mood enhancers in the form of food choices can boost four different “happy hormones” to help regulate our mood and alter our brain’s functioning. Village dietitian, Jamie Miller, shares with us top mood boosting foods and recipes  to nourish our body and transform our mental health.



The hormone dopamine is used by the brain to activate a sense of pleasure, while it also increases alertness and concentration. Foods high in B vitamins (low fat meats, yogurt, beans), vitamin D (fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks), and tyrosine (nuts and seeds), along with fruits like bananas and apples, all help the body naturally boost its dopamine levels.



Endorphins are the feel-good hormones used by our body to block pain sensors and create a sense of calmness and bliss. Foods rich in fat and high in sugar naturally boost endorphins (but can also cause energy slumps). Instead of reaching for a low-nutrient choice like a brownie or chips, there are also healthy foods that increase endorphin levels. Spicy foods such as chili peppers, strawberries, and chocolate all stimulate the production of these feel-good chemicals.



Serotonin is a mood stabilizer neurotransmitter synthesized by the amino acid tryptophan. This hormone also is connected to good sleep, memory, learning, and regulated appetite. By eating foods rich in tryptophan, we can naturally boost our serotonin levels to feel our best. Top tryptophan choices include high protein items like salmon, turkey, eggs, and cheese. But research shows the body best produces serotonin when tryptophan-containing foods are consumed alongside a source of carbohydrates. Examples of serotonin boosting combinations include a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, salmon with quinoa, eggs with roasted potatoes, or cheese with crackers.



Oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” is the neurotransmitter that creates a sense of connection, trust, and calmness. Research shows that sharing food, cooking with loved ones, and eating with others all help the body produce oxytocin. This is a wonderful incentive to schedule regular mealtimes with those you love. Too often, we often eat on the go or by ourselves in front of the television. But by altering where and with whom we eat, we can easily change our mood.


Healthy Guts

Maintaining optimal gut health is crucial not only for physical health, but also for our psychological well-being. Our microbiome directly impacts mental functioning, so much so that the gut is often called “the second brain.” The gut-brain connection can clearly be seen when an individual feels excited and experiences “butterflies in their stomach” or becomes anxious and gets a stomachache. Our gut influences neural development, emotional behavior, regulation of stress response, and the production of our “happy hormones.” More than 90% of our body’s serotonin and 50% of dopamine are produced in the gut. If the gut isn’t functioning properly, there can be a shortage of these feel-good hormones which has shown to impact mental health disorders. To maintain gut health, eat a diet full of anti-inflammatory foods that are also rich in prebiotic fiber. The prebiotic fibers act as fuel to stimulate growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in our gut. Foods highest in prebiotic fibers include fibrous produce such as artichokes, green bananas, apples, onions, and asparagus, along with whole grains like oatmeal and barley, nuts and seeds, and legumes. It’s also important to feed the gut probiotic rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. These all help the gut to maintain ample and various types of beneficial bacteria to keep us healthy. If these aren’t common foods eaten, it can be wise to take a supplemental form of probiotics. A happy gut leads to a happy mood!


Interested in knowing your personal needs for better mental health? Reach out to Village dietitian, Jamie Miller, today to set up a nutrition consultation! E: P: 713-494-2030



Dopamine Boosting Banana Maple Yogurt Parfait

  • 6 oz plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • Drop of maple extract
  • Natural sweetener to taste like stevia, monk fruit, honey, or maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 small banana, sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts



In a small bowl, mix the plain Greek yogurt with a drop of maple extract, sweetener of choice to taste, and cinnamon. Take a small glass or mason jar and spoon in half the yogurt, then top with ½ the banana slices, and 1 tbsp chopped walnuts. Repeat by layering the rest of the yogurt, then banana slices, and walnuts. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Enjoy immediately.



Endorphin Boosting Mexican Chocolate Bark

  • 9 oz dark chocolate
  • 1-2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)


Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Coarsely chop the dark chocolate, and place in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tsp coconut oil, cinnamon, and cayenne. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. If needed, add ½-1 tsp more coconut oil to smooth out the chocolate. Spread chocolate out on parchment paper, using a spatula. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepitas. Place in the refrigerator to cool for 1-2 hours. Cut into pieces and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.




Serotonin Boosting Turkey Asparagus Stir Fry & Brown Rice

  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1-pound 93/7 ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons all fruit apricot jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste or sriracha, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice, quinoa, or soba noodles to serve
  • Sesame seeds to serve


Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add in the ground turkey, using a spatula to break up large clumps as it cooks. Cook about 5 to 8 minutes, until most of the pink color has left. Add the carrots and scallions and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the coconut aminos, apricot jam and chili paste or sriracha (to taste). Stir to mix all the ingredients and cook for 2 minutes to form a sauce. Then stir in the asparagus and cook for another 3 minutes, so that the asparagus is just starting to soften, but still crisp. Remove the pan from the heat. Stack and roll the basil leaves, then cut crosswise into ribbons. Add basil over the stir-fry mixture and mix gently to incorporate. Serve the stir fry mixture over a whole grain of choice, such as brown rice, quinoa, or soba noodles, with a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top. Add extra chili paste or sriracha to desired spiciness level.


Happy Gut, Happy Mood Probiotic Breakfast Bowl

  • 2 cups cubed sweet potatoes, cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 1 large or 2 small potatoes)
  • 2 tsp avocado oil
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion (about ½ small onion)
  • 4 cups kale, tightly packed, washed, stems removed, and chopped (about 1 bunch)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sauerkraut
  • Optional: hot sauce or sriracha


Heat oil in a large skillet placed over medium-high heat. Add cubed sweet potato and red onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes or until onions and potatoes start to soften a bit. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add 2 Tbsp. water and cover with a lid. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the potatoes are just about done. Add kale, toss well and continue to cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted and tender. When the vegetables are done cooking, turn off the heat. Cook two eggs in a separate skillet to your liking- fried, poached, or scrambled. Divide the sweet potato and kale mixture into 2 separate bowls. Top each with 2 eggs, half of the avocado slices, and ¼ cup sauerkraut each. Top with sriracha or hot sauce if desired.


Beauty Boosting Foods

Many individuals are willing to pay a high price tag for the latest serums, creams, and cosmetics all in hopes to improve our appearance.

But did you know that what you eat also can transform what you see in the mirror? Proper nutrition supports the health of your hair, skin, and nails to make you glow from the inside out. Village dietitian, Jamie Miller, has the top nutrients to focus on in order to boost your beauty.


Healthy Fats for Radiant Skin

Oftentimes, individuals try to cut out as much fat as possible from their diet in hopes to keep any unwanted pounds off. But this can be one of the biggest mistakes made for our most radiant skin. Too little fat in our diet can cause skin to be more wrinkled and dry. Enough healthy fats provide skin with a natural “glow” and help keep skin moist, firm, and flexible. Focus on heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, and from fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, and trout.). Omega-3 fatty acids also block a chemical that lets skin cancer grow and spread, while also lowering inflammation to decrease redness or acne.


Protein for Strong Hair and Nails

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which the body uses to make other proteins, including collagen and keratin which form the structure of skin, hair, and nails. Aim to consume 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound body weight to ensure you have the amino acids from food for strong hair and nails and smooth skin. Nutritious protein sources include lean meats and poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, edamame, tempeh, tofu, protein powder, collagen, and bone broth.


Vitamin C to Lower Skin Cancer Risk

This vitamin helps collagen protein hold its shape to make strong hair, skin and nails. It’s also a powerful antioxidant to protect skin from free radicals and possibly lower the chance of skin cancer. Some of the foods highest in vitamin C include bell pepper, kiwi, strawberries, citrus, papaya, broccoli, tomato, and leafy greens.


Vitamin E to Protect Against Wrinkles

This antioxidant can absorb energy from UV light to prevent damage to skin which can cause wrinkles and skin cancer. It works also with vitamin C to strengthen cell walls and prevent sagging. High vitamin E foods include nuts and seeds, avocado, leafy greens, butternut squash, kiwi, olive oil, trout, and shrimp.


Vitamin A for Healthy Hair

Both the upper and lower layers of skin need vitamin A to prevent sun damage by interrupting the process that breaks down collagen. Vitamin A also helps the oil glands around hair follicles work to keep hair nourished. Our skin also benefits from adequate vitamin A in the way it helps our skin heal from any scrapes or other injuries. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, leafy greens, red pepper, grapefruit, egg yolks, tuna, and dairy.


Zinc to Protect from Sun Damage

Zinc can be very helpful for individuals who experience bacterial acne because this mineral has antimicrobial effects. It also keeps skin vibrant by protecting against sun damage. Zinc deficiency can cause hair loss, so proper intake is needed to keep full and thick hair. Foods highest in zinc include oysters, meat and poultry, tofu, beans and lentils, oats, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, and cocoa powder.




Sparkling Collagen Strawberry Mint Limeade

  • 4 sprigs mint
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 4 strawberries
  • Stevia to taste
  • 4 scoop collagen peptides
  • 32 oz. sparkling water


Puree the strawberries, mint leaves, lime juice, collagen, stevia and 1 cup of the sparkling water in a blender on low speed until smooth, at least 30 seconds. Pour puree into a pitcher and add remaining sparkling water. Serve chilled over ice in tall beverage glasses. Optional: garnish each with a sprig of fresh mint, slice of strawberry, or lime wedge.


Nutrition (¼ of recipe): 50 calories, 0 g fat, 9 g protein, 4.5 g carbs



Smoked Salmon Avocado Hand Roll

  • 1 sheet nori seaweed paper, cut in half
  • 3 oz smoked salmon or cooked salmon
  • ½ cup red pepper, cut into strips
  • ½ cup cucumber, cut into strips
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • ½ tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • Optional: sriracha


Using a sharp knife, cut a piece of nori in half. Place the nori sheets, horizontally in front of you with the rough side facing up. Divide the smoked salmon, red pepper, cucumber and avocado and lay diagonally, with the ends pointing towards the upper left corner. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, add a few dashes of coconut aminos or soy sauce, and optional sriracha to taste. To fold, start with the left bottom corner first, and fold up over the ingredients, then wrap the right side over and around to form a cone, about the size of an ice cream sugar cone. It will seal itself. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.


Spicy Roasted Nuts

  • 3 cups assorted unsalted, raw mixed nuts such as almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Place nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet. Add remaining ingredients and mix with your hands to evenly coat. Spread out nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until nuts are lightly browned and toasted, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet, transfer to a bowl, and serve. Store leftover nuts in an airtight container at room temperature.


Grilled Chicken Breast with Olive & Sundried Tomato Tapenade



  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Avocado oil, for grilling

Olive Tapenade

  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped (7 ounce jar)
  • 1 4-ounce jar green olives, drained and pitted
  • 1 6-ounce jar 1 6-ounce jar mixed Greek olives, drained and pitted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley


In a gallon sized freezer bag, add chicken and marinade ingredients. Seal the plastic bag and mix with hands to combine. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least an hour, up to 24 hours. To make the olive tapenade, add garlic and olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and process on high until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula then add the sun-dried tomatoes and process until the tomatoes are chopped. Add the green olives and the Greek olive mix and pulse two times so the olives are just coarsely chopped. Stir in the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and parsley. When ready to grill the chicken, bring one side of an outdoor grill to high heat with the other side cooler. Oil the grill grates well then place the chicken breasts on the hot grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until grill marks appear, then flip the chicken and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler grates of the grill, cover, and cook until they reach an internal temperature of 160F. Time will depend on thickness of the chicken. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with a piece of aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with olive tapenade.


Looking for more ways to improve your health, check out all the Village has to offer!



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