Food and Happiness: A Likely Pair

We’ve all been there. Having a bad day, work was stressful, your commute was painful and you get home to a full fridge but nothing you want to eat. All you want is to gorge yourself on chocolate, cake, muffins and the all-time favourite Krispy Kreme. You know you will feel guilty after eating it, but at the time all you can think of is pure bliss. It puts the comfort in comfort food. But this should only be a one-time deal, it has been shown that long term exposure to too much sugar and bad food can actually have a negative effect on your happiness. There’s that all famous saying “You are what you eat”. Improving your diet can increase positive feelings, clearer thinking, give you more energy, and keep you calmer. 


Ways food can affect your day:


·         Experts at Mind say that keeping a stable blood sugar is very beneficial when looking at your mood. A drop in blood sugar leads to feeling tired, irritable and down. To help keep a stable blood sugar level it is best to:

1)      Avoid foods that make your blood sugar rise and fall quickly, such as sugary snacks, sugary drinks and alcohol can help you to even out your blood sugar.

2)      Eat little and often

3)      Have breakfast

4)      Eat foods that release sugar slowly, such as proteins, nuts, seeds, oats and whole grains

·         The gut and stress – have you ever noticed that if you’re stressed or nervous, your gut starts to do somersaults? This isn’t just because of your physical comfort. The gut has its own nervous system, and lots of the chemicals produced in your brain can then signal into the nervous system of your digestive tract. Making some stress busting changes to your life can really improve your digestive health.

·         Sugar addiction is on the rise. Sweets and fats trigger the same pleasure centres in the brain that addictive drugs hit, so it is very possible to be addicted to your sugar high. Stress causes your body to crave sugar, because it is a great quick source of energy for escaping a threatening situation. Unfortunately this is not helpful in today’s society! Reducing your sugar intake is the first step to combating sugar addiction. Replacing it with an alternative that you like is a great way to get healthier, happier and enjoy doing so.


What should you be eating to be happy?


The advice on what to eat to keep happy and healthy seems to change almost weekly, but there are some constant underlying principles that stay constant.

·         Keeping hydrated is very important for concentration, and for your gut - good drinks include water, herbal and green tea, or diluted fruit juice

·         Are you eating the right fats? Fatty oils such as omega-3 and omega-6 are needed by the brain so avoiding all fats isn’t wise – good fats are in oily fish, poultry, nuts, olive oil, seeds, avocados, milk, yoghurt, cheese and eggs

·         Do you get enough protein? Protein is essential because the building blocks of proteins (amino acids) are needed for our cells to make everything from insulin, to new skin – good sources of protein are lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds

·         Vegetables and fruit have tonnes of vitamins, minerals and fibre essential for keeping us ticking over. Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables ensures you’ll get a full range of these nutrients

·         Is caffeine ok? Coffee and tea can make us feel great in the short run, but too much caffeine can lead to feelings of anxiety, disturb your sleep, and even give you withdrawal symptoms such as headaches if you stop drinking it


Why do we like the foods that are bad for us so much?


Our bodies are programmed to want sugar and fat – particularly if you get the magic half and half fat: sugar ratio. A really interesting experiment with mice showed that if you gave a mouse the option of eating pure sugar, they didn’t much like it and didn’t put on weight. The same was true of mice offered pure fat, however, if the fat and sugar was provided in a 50:50 ratio they would eat until they were morbidly obese. When we think about just eating sugar out of a bowl, or a lump of butter, most of us couldn’t stomach much – but ice cream, or butter cream icing is far more appealing. The last thing we want to do is take away the guilty pleasure of the occasional takeaway pizza, a chocolate biscuit with a cup of tea, or a doughnut after a long walk, but we need to be careful, and regard these guilty pleasures as a treat, and not something we have every day. Small changes in our diets can make a big difference to both our physical, and mental health!