Can What You Eat Make You Happier?
By Karen Koenig
If you're tempted to reach for a salty snack or a cookie to boost your mood, you're far from alone. But these aren't really the best choices to feel better - and there's quite a bit of real science behind why.
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If you were convinced that certain foods could increase your happiness, would you eat them? Science tells us that there’s a link between the foods we eat and how good we feel (HealthNews, “Want to Feel Good? Eat More Fruits and Vegetables,”10/16, p. 3). It might surprise you to find out what those foods are.
Dysregulated eaters might think that foods that are high in sugar and fat would raise our spirits. The fact is that a “new study (from the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health) reveals that eating up to eight daily servings of fruits and vegetables provides a ‘happiness’ factor that kicks in within 24 months.”
Wait two years, you may think, to feel happy? No way. Fortunately, that’s not what the study is saying. It states that, “Happiness, or well-being increased incrementally for each extra daily serving of fruit and vegetables, up to eight servings per day.”
In case you want to know exactly what a serving is, this info is straight out of the Duke HealthNews newsletter: A one-cup serving of fruits and vegetables equals any of the following—Fruits:“1 small banana, 1 medium grapefruit, 1 large orange, 1 large peach, 1 medium pear, 2-3 small plums, 8 large strawberries, 2 small watermelon wedges, 2 medium cantaloupe wedges, 2 small boxes of raisins or other dried fruit; Vegetables: 3 spears of broccoli, 1 large sweet potato, 1 large ear of corn, 1 medium potato, 2 large celery stalks, 1 large bell pepper, 1 large tomato, ½ can of beans, 2 medium carrots or 12 baby carrots, cooked spinach, collards, mustard or turnip greens; 2 cups of these vegetables raw.”
Consider how you feel when you eat large quantities of sugar or fats. At first you may enjoy a sugar high or a pleasant kind of woozy sensation, but after that, it’s more than likely that you’ll feel tired, logy and sometimes even cranky.
This proves that what we eat can affect our mood. What, you might wonder, is it about fruits and veggies that could make us feel better. Previous studies speculate that vitamin B12 affects serotonin production, that “gut bacteria may impact brain chemistry,” and that “carotenoids derived from the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables affect human optimism.”
Is it such a stretch to imagine that a healthier body might produce more happiness? Maybe it will help you eat more healthfully to imagine yourself eating for increased happiness. Not only will you reduce inflammation which will make you feel better, but the actual foods you eat may be upping your happiness factor little by little each day.