As seen in the Surprise Independent, April 22, 2015

Tracy Garrett - Sun Health Center For Health & WellnessMcDonald’s Happy Meals may bring short-term happiness but they can’t compete long term with complex carbohydrates such as corn, popcorn, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dried beans and whole wheat pasta and breads, all of which have been shown to increase serotonin levels. 

Calcium-rich foods, such as milk, yogurt or cheese, as well as protein-rich poultry or beef also are serotonin-friendly.

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Mother knew what she was talking about when she told us to eat our vegetables. Mood-enhancing foods that curb cortisol and boost immunity include vegetables and fruits (high in vitamin C), foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna and swordfish as well as walnuts and chia seeds. Spinach, beans and barley also make the “good” list.

Black, green and white teas can restore “calm” after a stressful event or day by decreasing and normalizing cortisol levels.

Who knew that the English passion for tea was scientifically sound?

If you drink coffee or alcohol, remember to sip them in moderation. Both can increase cortisol levels.

The meat of the matter is this: By cutting back on processed foods and eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, we can improve our state of mind and our overall health. A little chocolate can’t hurt either.

Tracy Garrett is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Sun Health Center for Health and Wellbeing in Surprise.

Information provided in the section is from a multidisciplinary team of Sun Health professionals at the Center for Health and Wellbeing, based in Surprise, Arizona. However, it should not be a substitute for medical advice from your physician. To submit a question for consideration, email


(Originally published April 27, 2015; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)

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