Food and Happiness
For the most part, healthy food may seem boring. You probably think it’s more fun eating ice cream than broccoli, but is it? Actually, it turns out that there’s healthy food you can eat for the sake of uplifting your mood. The best part is that you don’t have to compromise on your diet commitments.
Eating to influence how you feel, either happy or sad, comes down to two choices. You can choose to leave out food that causes stress and depression. You can then begin adding foods that have been proven to boost your mental and emotional health, leaving you feeling happy all day long.
How Food Makes You Happy
There are at least 4 known "happy" hormones. These are:
The following nutrients may help your body make enough happy hormones:
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
Foods That Make You Sad
Certain foods can lead to stress and depression. When you eat too much sugar and processed foods, your body and brain suffer inflammation. As a result, you get mood disorders that may include anxiety, stress, and depression.
It doesn’t stop there. When you’re stressed or depressed, you tend to either eat too little or too much. So, on one end, you’re risking malnutrition, and unhealthy weight gain on the other.
Foods to Boost Happiness
Coffee helps raise your mood by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels. However, once you stop drinking coffee, you’ll have at least 12 days to get it out of your system. During this time, you may have to contend with withdrawal.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids boost your serotonin levels, helping you fight off depression. A great source of omega-3 fatty acids is cold-water fish like salmon.
Also known as Vitamin B9, folic acid is an essential nutrient for pregnant mothers. Additionally, it helps to elevate mood. To get folic acid into your body, eat beans and lentils. Eating oatmeal and cereals fortified with folate can also help supplement your vitamin B9 needs.
Brown rice and starchy vegetables will give you the energy to help you think and react quickly. Instead of consuming simple carbohydrates found in sugar, try quinoa, millet, beets, and sweet potatoes. These have more nutritional value and give you satisfaction for longer.
The recommended sources of protein come from foods like fish, beef, chicken, turkey, tofu, beans, eggs, and unsweetened yogurt. These have a reputation of boosting dopamine and norepinephrine levels in your brain, which in turn, elevates your motivation, concentration, and mood.
A study conducted by Cardiff University's School of Psychology found that people that regularly consumed a high-fiber diet:
- Were less emotionally distressed
- Had fewer cognitive difficulties
- Had a more positive mood
- Had less difficulty falling asleep
- Had lower depression scores
Examples of high-fiber foods are:
- Whole wheat bread
What Can You Drink to Make You Happy?
Although water should be the healthiest liquid to drink, something more flavorful is always welcome. However, since you ought to avoid sweetened drinks, you may feel as if there are no options. If you can blend whole fruits and vegetables, you’ll have healthy alternatives to plain water that will also help you detoxify.
If you haven’t heard of the Mediterranean diet before, it is almost entirely based on fruit and vegetables. For a change, you can choose to have some of your fruit and veggies in juice or puree form. Don’t, however, sieve out the fruit fiber to drink only the juice. You’ll be throwing out all the goodness that your gut needs to run efficiently.
Eat Healthy for Better Mental Health
As you may have noticed, all that food has to do with happiness is connected to your brain. Good food choices lead to a healthier brain, which in turn, translates into a happy life. These healthy eating tips will help you stay in your best mood for the most part of your life.
- Develop a healthy shopping list and stick to it.
- Avoid eating processed snack foods, such as deep-fried potatoes. Such foods can impair your ability to concentrate.
- Don’t snack on sugar-filled snacks, such as candy and soft drinks, as they can lead to fluctuations in energy levels.
- When you need to snack, reach for fruit, hard-boiled eggs, baked sweet potatoes, or chew on some nuts. These are all good sources of quick energy than packaged products.
- Add healthy oils to your diet to support brain function. These include olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.
- If you can, don’t shop for food when you’re hungry. It’s the riskiest time to make unhealthy food choices out of impulse.
- Consider how, where and when you eat. Eating while doing something else like watching a movie may sound fun until you have no idea how much you’ve eaten. Try to find a place to sit and relax, and then eat your food mindfully, savoring the flavor and texture of each bite.
While there is almost everything available to you for food, choosing what to eat will make the difference between a happy and sad future for you. Form a habit of thinking about your food and how it makes you feel before eating. If you’re only going to enjoy it while you eat but suffer negative consequences afterward, then you’re not really eating to be happy. Real happiness comes from staying healthy, so make a conscious choice to eat happy every time.
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