I’m sure you know what you eat is important to your health. You’ve probably heard that sugar is poison to your body. (It is.) That carbs make you fat. (They do.) And that the Standard American Diet promotes inflammation and early death. (It does.)
So here’s some good food news for a change…
You can eat a delicious and filling diet and be happier for it. And I don’t just mean the happiness that comes from knowing you’ve done well. I mean you can actually improve your mood by eating tasty, filling foods.
With the holidays upon us, here’s how to eat to get the most good feelings out of your year-end celebrations.
Eating and Mood – A Proven Link
Folks like to say, “You are what you eat.” And there’s some truth to that. But what you don’t hear so often is that you also feel what you eat.
Back in 2015, University researchers in Spain looked at data on more than 15,000 volunteers. These college students were all free from depression at the start of the study, and were followed for an average of 8.5 years.
About 10% of the students were diagnosed with depression over a 10-year period. Among those, certain dietary patterns stood out.
Volunteers who followed the Mediterranean diet – high in fruits and vegetables, low in red meat, etc. – were 16% less likely than average to suffer with depression.
Those who ate a primarily vegetarian diet cut their risk of depression by 26%.
And those who scored high on the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010) were a whopping 40% less likely to develop depression.
AHEI-2010 ideally includes eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, a serving of nuts each day, focusing of healthy fats, and going easy on red meat and dairy foods.
The results of this study were published in BMJ Medicine.
Two years later, the same journal published another study. This study was much smaller but focused on the effect of diet on existing depression.
Volunteers suffering with depression were divided randomly into two groups. One group ate a modified Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks. The others received social support. This consisted of “befriending.”
Befriending offered neutral social support without using any recognized psychiatric practices.
At the end of the 12 weeks, those following the modified Mediterranean diet had significantly lower depression scores than the befriending group.
Happiness May Grow on Trees
In a 2016 study of 12,000 Australians, food proved a major factor in happiness.
Eating lots of fruits and veggies can boost your health in many ways. It lowers your risk of cancer, high blood pressure, and many other ailments. But what’s the quickest result?
Apparently, it’s boosting your mood.
Over two years, people who added the largest amount of fruits and vegetables to their diet also boosted their satisfaction with their lives the most.
“The results showed that there was a direct impact,” said New York City nutritionist Antonella Apicella, “in terms of the amount of fruits and vegetables someone had and their overall well-being.”
A study just published in BMC Public Health showed similar results in children.
The study found that kids who ate less sugar and fat – and more fruits and veggies – had higher self-esteem, and fewer problems with their emotions and even bullying.
Simply put, healthy eating was clearly linked to greater emotional health.
And, yes, I have some specific suggestions.
The Experts ID Foods That Make You Happier
According to the folks at Healthline.com, you can boost happiness with a few simple tricks.
First, eat at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar as level as possible. Try to eat at the same time every day – including snacks. Also, don’t skip meals. According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, hunger can lead to a bad mood – and overeating at your next meal.
Next, avoid foods that can kill your mood. Cleveland Clinic experts say “white foods” – such as refined flour and white rice – and simple sugars should be off your diet. They can lead to mood-killing blood sugar swings.
Instead, focus on lean proteins, vitamin-dense foods – especially foods rich in B vitamins and D – and foods rich in fiber.
During the holidays, you’ll probably be tempted by foods high in fat and sugar. But resist. If you go for the healthy options I’ve listed here, you’ll actually wind up happier for the holidays.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Sánchez-Villegas, A., et al, “A longitudinal analysis of diet quality scores and the risk of incident depression in the SUN Project,” BMC Medicine. 2015; 13: 197.
Jacka, F.N., et al, “A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial),” BMC Medicine. 2017; 15: 23.
Blaszczak-Boxe, A., “Eating More Fruits & Veggies May Make You Happier,” LiveScience.com. Jul 14, 2016.
“Healthy eating linked to kids’ happiness,” ScienceDirect.com. Dec 13, 2017.
“Mood Food: Can What You Eat Affect Your Happiness?” Healthline.com. Jun 2, 2016.
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