Aug 20, 2013

Food Can't Make Me Happy, or Can It?

Our guest blogger is Lisa Francombe. Please welcome her as she shares the about two of my favorite subjects, food and happiness!

Can Food Make You Happy?

The obvious answer to the question ‘can food make you happy?’ is, of course, 'yes'! Surely there’s not a single person out there who doesn’t experience some form of overwhelming euphoria when they sit down in front of a gooey cheese pizza or a big tub of ice cream? Food like this not only satisfies the body’s need for fuel, but it also tastes delicious, which is why there’s that sudden explosion of bliss, but food can actually have much more long term effects on your state of mind, if you eat the right things of course. A chocolate cake every day may seem like a good idea at first, but ultimately it’s going to leave you feeling a bit down, not to mention a good few pounds heavier!

Greek food mix by Signe Karin
The Mediterranean Diet

If you take a look at the instances of depression around the world, you’ll see some very interesting figures. In the United States, a whopping 20 percent, that’s one in five people, report feelings of depression or anxiety, but in Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy, the percentage drops by half to just 10 percent, or one in 10 people. Why is that? Well, the obvious answer is that they enjoy gloriously sunny weather and have access to some of the world’s best beaches, but it goes a bit deeper than that, and researchers actually believe that the Mediterranean diet plays a big role. The Mediterranean diet is full of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, seafood and meats, legumes, nuts such as peanuts and almonds, and grain-based breads and pastas, all of which contain high levels of B Vitamins and it’s these vitamins that are thought to play a big part in preventing the signs and symptoms of depression in women especially.

If you think eating a Mediterranean diet is boring then you’re wrong! There are so many interesting meals and snacks you can whip up that your whole family will love. Do you know what’s great as a quick after school snack, or even as a healthy lunch for yourself? Black eyed pea and olive oil hummus, served with some carrot sticks or pita chips. This gives you a good mix of the B vitamins in the legumes, and the healthy fats in the olive oil. A bean and tuna salad makes a great appetizer, instead of fried hot wings, for example, but don’t feel like you need to jump in at the deep end. You can still incorporate aspects of the Mediterranean diet into your everyday eating habits without having to do without all your favorite foods. Rather than calling for takeout on a Fridaynight, why not make your own pizza with grilled chicken, avocado, lots of fresh herbs and a drizzle of garlic-infused olive oil? Your kids will love creating their own pizza!

Chocolate Coffee Ice Cream by gordonramsaysubmissions
It’s Good to Indulge a Little

While the Mediterranean diet is great for boosting your state of mind, there are other foods that have been found to have a similar effect. One such food is chocolate! Chocolate increases serotonin production in the brain (the chemical that makes us happy) in the same way as an antidepressant would, although on a much smaller scale. Technically speaking, eating an apple has the same effect, it makes people feel happy and joyous afterwards but, you know, sometimes you just want a candy bar! Eating food with a high fat content can also be a great mood booster. Now, this isn’t something you should do all the time, unless you want to be squeezing into your jeans, but if you want to indulge in a cheese-covered taco with a generous dollop of sour cream or rum-laden homemade ice cream, then why not? There’s nothing wrong with that, and a little bit of indulgence every now and then is actually good for you. If you give in to your temptations once in a while, you’re more likely to stick to a healthy diet rather than become fixated on all the things you ‘can’t’ have.

In answer to the question ‘can food make you happy?’ - absolutely it can, but it does so in many different ways. Hopefully this has shown you that you don’t need to stick to one particular diet or one specific type of food to enjoy a healthy diet and a happy frame of mind. It’s all about mixing it up a little and enjoying everything in moderation.

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