By now you probably know that a healthy gut is key to keeping your digestive system running smoothly. But according to an increasing number of doctors, a happy gut could also promote, well, overall happiness—along with stable moods and a stronger memory. Michelle Babb, RD, author of Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain, explains, “Every piece of food we put into our mouth communicates to our genes, cells, organs, and tissues, so every time we eat, we make a choice about what kind of communication we want to send and how we want to feel.”
So what kind of foods actually give your gut that boost? The often-lauded probiotics (think yogurt, kimchi, and other fermented foods) are a great place to start, but they aren’t the only things that matter when it comes to good tummy vibes. Prebiotics are equally important. Found in foods like onions, walnuts, and oats, prebiotics are foods that probiotics feast on. Translation: These do best together. And you don’t have to stress about eating them at the same meal; just include both in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids—which are found in salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and more—reduce inflammation and help speed up neuronal communication, which promotes more stable moods and better focus. Tryptophan (tofu, eggs, and chicken are great sources) is not only essential for a good night’s sleep but is also a precursor for serotonin, which regulates mood and appetite. And polyphenols, like those found in spinach and broccoli, help stimulate the growth of good bacteria and stifle the growth of bad bacteria.
All of the following recipes have a combo of these ingredients—and they’re not just good for you, the flavors will make you smile too.