8 Surprising Ingredients That Can Boost Your Mood

If you're feeling ho-hum, try these herbs and spices to bring your smile back.

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Spices and herbs in wooden bowls
Photo: Shutterstock/dianaduda

When you’re feeling sluggish and just blah, there are certain ingredients that can actually help boost your mood. Check out these power-packed herbs and spices that can help you get back to your happy place.

These tips will change the way you buy herbs and spices.

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fresh turmeric roots on wooden table
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Turmeric is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can stimulate the release of serotonin, a natural mood enhancer. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is responsible for most of its potential health benefits. Studies suggest it may also improve memory and help new brain cells grow as we age. Try these eight surprising ways to get your turmeric.

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Cinnamon sticks and meal close up on wooden table
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Can you believe that just smelling cinnamon can stimulate the brain? Including cinnamon in your diet can help increase attention and enhance cognitive processing, which are both mood lifters. Try adding a few sprinkles of cinnamon to your morning coffee or tea. Or, when hunger strikes, snack on this cinnamon-y nut mix to get the boost you need.

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Honey, while not a spice, has a lot of medicinal qualities (it may even help alleviate seasonal allergies!). Not only is it a perfect sweet treat, it’s packed with quercetin and kaempferol, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation. To keep our brains happy, it’s important to keep inflammation in our bodies at a minimum…and honey is a joyful way to achieve this. These Chewy Honey Granola Bars will sweeten your day. Plus, honey can even help you fall asleep, which is why it’s a core ingredient in this Sweet Dreams cereal.

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Peeled Garlic (close-up shot) on vintage wooden background
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Garlic can help boost the immune system and reduce the length of a cold. (Surely, if you feel better, you’ll be in a better mood!) Garlic also contains antioxidants that can protect against oxidative damage, keeping our brains and emotions healthy. Feeling a cold coming on? This Garlicky Cheddar Bisque might be just what the doctor ordered.

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Fresh organic ginger on fresh market in thailand
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Not only is ginger a popular spice, it is loaded with healthful benefits. You can eat this spice fresh, powdered or dried. Two of the many nutrients found in ginger are vitamin B6—which can improve energy levels—and magnesium—which helps ward off depression. A cup of ginger tea is a rejuvenating beverage anytime!

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bowl of cloves
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Clove, the dried flower bud of the clove tree, is a versatile spice used to season savory dishes and add depth to desserts, mulled wines, tea and coffee. Cloves are thought to be a natural stress reliever, stimulating the mind and decreasing fatigue. This Spicy White Chili is enhanced with cloves, so we guarantee it’s scrumptious—and it may also have a calming effect.

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fresh green thyme on board
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Thyme is a flavorful herb used to season chicken and soups. It’s also a great complement to tomato dishes. Like cloves, thyme is thought to have a calming effect and can even help you fall asleep. Herbal teas are a great way to use thyme—and why not have a little Lemon Thyme Tea Bread with your tea for a double dose of mood enhancement?

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grated nutmeg and whole fruit on a wooden plate
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Nutmeg is not just for desserts. Try adding a little to warm milk, over pasta, or as an ingredient in a savory dish. The magnesium in nutmeg can help you sleep, plus it acts as a mild antidepressant. This cozy Bread Pudding with Nutmeg, with the mood-boosting benefits of nutmeg and pure delicious comfort, might just be the perfect ending to your meal.

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woman covering her face with hands while sitting in bed
Photo: Shutterstock / Tatyana Chaiko

Psst! Feeling down? If you’ve been feeling this way a lot lately, seeking medical advice from a primary care physician or psychotherapist is never a bad idea.

Kizmet Byrd
Kizmet Byrd is an enthusiastic home cook, decorator, and crafter of beautiful things. She is owner of Mattie Mae Company, which specializes in easy to make recipes, decorating ideas, and home organization tips. Her recipes have appeared in Taste of Home Magazine, The Journal Gazette, Lincoln Financial IAO Cookbook, and other publications. Byrd is well versed in everyday home lifestyle needs, foodie trends, kitchen hacks, and blogs about food adventures. Having roots based in Northeastern Illinois and Indiana; she is inspired by the changing seasons, festivals, thrift shop finds, farmer's markets, and that good old Midwest hospitality. She contributes to Taste of Home Magazine as a Volunteer Field Editor and as a Content Writer, with an emphasis on cooking and baking. Coffee is her spirit animal. Instructing culinary classes brings her joy. Food is her passion.