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Extended family making a dish from The Happiness Diet

The Happiness Diet

Try these four sample recipes from the book The Happiness Diet, a guide to meals that not only counter depression, but also target mental clarity, energy, and quality sleep.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Garry Messick.

Journalist Rachel Kelly had suffered from anxiety and depression for years. She found medication helpful, but realized it caused side effects, such as weight gain. Eventually, Kelly’s doctor introduced her to the connection between mood and food, and some of the scientific evidence supporting that concept.

Kelly soon discovered that changing her diet made a significant difference in how she felt, and even friends and family remarked that she looked happier. Intrigued, the journalist wanted to explore the mood/food connection in greater depth, so she met with nutritionist Alice Mackintosh. The two formed a partnership that led to their book, The Happiness Diet.

Kelly says her book “is not intended as a substitute for medication or other strategies,” but she feels antidepressants and other mood-altering drugs are best for short-term use. The Happiness Diet is intended as a guide to meals that not only counter depression, but also foods that can have many other mood-related benefits. Accordingly, the book is divided into groups of recipes, each targeting specific topics, such as mental clarity, energy, and promotion of quality sleep.

On the next three pages are three sample recipes from The Happiness Diet. These meals can help make your kitchen, as Kelly puts it, “a place of creativity and adventure.”

For a breakfast that promotes restfulness at the end of the day:

Overnight Bircher Muesli

Serves 2

Overnight Bircher Muesli  
  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 4 tablespoons natural yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • Handful of almonds, chopped
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup low-fat milk, more if needed (or dairy-free alternative such as unsweetened almond or oat milk)
  • Handful of fresh berries of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon goji berries (optional)

Stir together the oats, yogurt, chia seeds, almonds, cinnamon, and dairy milk or almond milk. Leave the mixture in the fridge in a covered jar or tub for 4 hours, or overnight. It should form a thick, creamy consistency. Add more milk if you prefer it a little thinner.

When you are ready to eat, add the fresh berries and pumpkin seeds. You can also sprinkle over some goji berries if you want extra color and sweetness.

To promote calmness:

Jeweled Guacamole and Roasted Peppers on Rye Bread

Serves 1, with leftover

Jeweled Guacamole and Roasted Peppers on Rye Bread  

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds
  • 2 slices of toasted rye bread, with added seeds if possible

Place the peppers on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and a little chopped parsley. Bake for 20 minutes, turning them halfway through. We like them slightly charred on the outside.

Scoop out the avocado flesh and mash it together with the garlic and a dash of olive oil. We prefer it a little lumpy, but if you want a smooth consistency, mash away to your heart’s content.

Add a squeeze of lemon (not too much) and mix in the pomegranate seeds.

Once the peppers are cooked, you are ready to serve. Drizzle olive or hempseed oil over the hot toast, and then spread on the guacamole. Place the roasted peppers on top and add a sprinkle of parsley. The guacamole can be stored in the fridge but may go a little brown as the avocado oxidizes, so it is better eaten the same day.

For fighting the blues:

Mushroom and Mustard Soup

Serves 4

  • 10 dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 ¼ pounds mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, button), roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 parsnips, washed and chopped
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 ounces fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1 ½ tablespoons mascarpone cheese

Pour ¾ cup boiling water over the porcini mushrooms in a bowl, cover, and let them soak for 20 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the red onion. Cook it on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then stir in the garlic and parsnips.

When the onions have softened, add the fresh mushrooms and cook for another minute, then pour in the white wine.

Drain the liquid from the porcini mushrooms into another bowl, then add them to the pan. Sieve the liquid a few times to remove any grit before pouring it into the pan along with the stock.

Turn down the heat, cover the pan with a lid, and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until all the ingredients are soft.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley and mustard, then blend the soup to your preferred consistency using an immersion blender. Don’t blend it for too long, or you will lose the texture of the mushrooms.

Stir in the mascarpone (I sometimes add a little extra mustard, too) before serving, or dollop it on top with a sprinkle of parsley once you have ladled the soup into bowls.

The Happiness Diet
Item #34131

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

To order The Happiness Diet, call 1-800-544-4440

From The Happiness Diet by Rachel Kelly. Copyright © 2017 by Rachel Kelly.

Photography copyright © Laura Edwards. Originally published in Great Britain in 2017 by Short Books.

Reprinted by permission of ATRIA BOOKS, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.