Is There A Connection Between Diet & Happiness? Find What Experts Say

Connection Between Diet and Happiness
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Mental health has a significant part to play in our overall wellbeing, even if it does not cause physiological symptoms like heart disease, diabetes and other potential diseases that affect the physical wellbeing of the body does.

Even though maintaining a healthy mind is important, many people still suffer from adverse psychological effects, such as anxiety disorders and mood disorders, with depression being one of the most common mental disorders amongst the general population today.

A low mood has many adverse effects on a person’s life, and may affect their ability to perform at an optimum level at work, and even cause problems in their relationship with a partner, their family and their friends.

When your mood gets dampened and you feel like you just want to get into bed and forget about the entire world, it is important to know that it is possible to improve* mental health by taking things one step at a time.

Improving* your mood is usually one of the first steps that can help you start the recovery process, get out of bed and deal with your problems head on.

Feeling happier and having a more positive mood helps to improve* your productivity, improves* the way you deal with people around you and even helps you be better at maintaining healthy relationships with the people you care about most.

The Link Between Diet And Happiness

The Link Between Diet And Happiness

When a person feels depressed and unhappy, they often visit a doctor in search of an antidepressant to help them overcome the unpleasant symptoms they are experiencing.

Even though antidepressant can be helpful in improving* a person’s mood and helping them cope with mental diseases, these drugs often come at the cost of certain side-effects.

One particular unpleasant side-effect is the fact that some antidepressants may cause sexual problems to arise amongst male users.

Instead of opting for antidepressants, people should realize that the answer to a happier mindset might lie within their kitchen.

Yes, while it might seem somewhat difficult to grasp – since food is consumed and processed within the digestive tract, a system within the human body that is quite distant from the brain – several food types have been linked to improvements in mood.

To better understand how diet is connected to a happier mood, we have asked the opinions and advice of several experts in the field of nutrition and mental health.

Here we are going to share the advice we obtained from experts to help you become more educated on how you can almost instantly improve* your mood by simply paying a visit to your kitchen.

By Dr. Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

To keep my company innovative, I dedicate a huge amount of my time and energy to researching emotional intelligence and then writing books and articles. In the process I’ve developed a fascination with the impact diet has on our emotional intelligence.

I’m particularly interested in sugar and caffeine, two of the worst diet-offenders when it comes to derailing otherwise emotionally intelligent people.

How Your Diet Is Lowering Your Mood?

Here’s how sugar and caffeine derail people and how you can minimize their effects.

Sugar saps your energy, then shuts down your self-control. For your brain to function at a high level, it needs to burn through its sugar caches.

Sugar presents a unique challenge though because foods high in sugar (soda, donuts, candy, etc.) provide a temporary spike in energy that leaves you feeling depleted shortly thereafter.

In a study at Boston Children’s Hospital, people either ate instant oatmeal that was high in sugar or an egg-based meal for breakfast. Those that ate instant oatmeal showed a huge spike in blood sugar followed by a crash an hour or so later, while those that ate an egg-based breakfast sustained their energy and never experienced a crash.

The interesting finding, though, was that the instant-oatmeal-eaters experienced a surge in adrenaline as they crashed. This added insult to injury.

Adrenaline surges compromise your self-control and leave you more prone to emotionally un-intelligent behaviors like poor decision-making, taking things personally, and engaging in unnecessary conflicts.

How You Should Get Your Sugar:

Eat foods like whole grain rice, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fish which all offer a steady burn as opposed to a spike followed by an inevitable crash. The steadier burn means you can function at a high mental level for a longer period of time.

Drinking caffeine causes your emotions to overrun your behavior. Cutting down on caffeine is one of the simplest and most effective strategies to improve* your emotional intelligence.

Consuming caffeine, especially in large amounts, causes your brain to produce adrenaline and trigger a fight-or-flight response. When your brain goes into fight-or-flight mode, it bypasses rational responses and heads straight for emotional ones.

This works well when a shark attacks you, but not as well when you’re attempting to deal with an upset client or a frustrating colleague.

How You Should Get Your Caffeine:

Substitute that cup of coffee with some green tea. Green tea contains about half the amount of caffeine found in coffee. It also provides L-theanine, an amino acid that puts you in a state of calm awareness.

Studies show that L-theanine and caffeine work synergistically to provide a higher quality focus, greater overall alertness, and less physical symptoms (like headaches) than caffeine provides on its own.

By Connie Stoltz-McDonald

Connie Stoltz
Linkdin

This is such a controversial topic that has so many avenues to aid in how we eat and how we live makes a difference on the outcome of our life.

If the scenario was adjusted with regular oatmeal along with nothing added except almond milk, for instance, this would aid in the benefit of a proficient workout or having the energy to accomplish the task at hand.

Sugar also makes you physically careless when the adrenaline kicks in and you feel the need to keep pushing to such a high extreme that you become invasive to what’s ahead for injury. You lose* the self-control and the prior consideration to what might happen beyond the adrenaline rush.

Does Food/Diet Affect Your Happiness?

Yes, most definitely. When we think of where our happiness is driven from- it’s channeled through our serotonin levels. So when you invade their route, or they become chaotic due to an interruption in the body, you become more susceptible to everything around you.

That being said, you would think that would be a good thing, but in reality, it causes a lingering amount of concerns that reap havoc on your body.

You may have tendencies to get jumpy, lash out or become more sensitive to judgment. Then there’s the gut issues lingering from food choices or meal habits because of the careless decisions when making food choices.

It really is about keeping our proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins in check to ensure we keep our mood in balance, which then aids in support of our metabolism and hormones.

Does Diet Is Affecting Your Mood?

Food really does make a difference. As the old saying goes… Food is medicine. And when you think about it – truly you are what you eat.

That pertains to how we feel inside, how our mood changes and how we function throughout the day. Food is a major component to our lively hood.

How we choose to eat will determine how we live our lives. If we are consuming a lot of processed foods, we become sluggish, and inflammation begins to take over our gut.

The gut really affects your entire body so, choose wisely as to what you decide to put there.

Nutrition Strategies For Mood Maintenance.

The number one key to nutrition success is meal planning. To ensure you eat the healthiest, you have to set time to plan, prepare and meal prep all your meals.

The preparation helps you stay on track whether you’re at home, work or traveling by having the accessibility to be ready and available to take on the go and still stay healthy.

Once, this become part of your routine, you see how your body relates to the nutritious route you prepared and relays the benefit through your body. It’s not only reflected in your moods through decisions, feelings or behaviors, but also the way the body works throughout the day.

I always say the body is a machine and if you feed it the right fuel, you will have the energy and motivation to conquer your daily goals. But keep in mind, it’s a process that needs to be oiled and well maintained just like a machine to keep it moving in a steadily and proficient pattern.

When your body takes in too much caffeine, sugar, or alcohol, it can cause havoc on our inflammatory response and therefore, lower our moods levels.

Foods That Will Boost* Your Mood.

Mood boosting foods are derived in many ways by delivering the benefits through magnesium, vitamins, chromium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, tyrosine, and zinc, which all play a huge role in keeping us calm and relaxed. Some great choices are:

1.Water and Tea
2.Leafy Greens & Spinach
3.Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds and Almonds
4.Asparagus, Tomatoes, Bell peppers, Avocados, Bananas and Peas
5.Beans & Legumes
6.Whole grains and Flaxseed
7.Meat, Fish, Lamb, and Poultry
8.Egg yolks
Finally, let’s not forget the wine, it can improve* your mood and your fight or flight response time to aid in your hormones and prolonging a relaxed mood.

As always, I hope this article finds you in good health.

By Chef Gigi

Forget what came first, the chicken or the egg. Looking for a great conversation starter at your next social gathering? Open with the latest hot food topic: Can what you eat affect your happiness?

According to research substantiated by Torrey Pines, Institute for Molecular Studies, certain flavors in fresh berries have a similar molecular structure matching those of Valproic Acid a mood stabilizing drug developed in western medicine. 

We all understand the flavonoid, anthocyanidin also found in berries reduces* inflammation. Inflammation is found to be linked to increased rates of depression.

I really do believe foods have the ability to alter our mood, as well as health. 

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that psychological stress was lower in individuals who drank five or more cups of green tea per day. Today, Matcha is readily available in drinks and delicious snacks. 

Another example: Low levels of Zinc in our body have been linked to anxiety. Eating delicious fresh oysters will not only heat things up but these ocean delights will also cool you down. Zinc is said to lower anxiety, and quickly.

Noshing on good quality artisan dark chocolate, 70 % and up – is said to reduce* the stress hormone, Cortisol. Eating more cacao sounds like a great plan. 

Mental health is an important component of overall well-being, and we need to continue to keep eyes on a solid nutrition plan anyway, focus what goes into your food basket. 

Everyone knows that bananas are high in potassium, but what you might not know is -they are also linked to mood regulating tryptophan, a chemical released in our brains. Bananas are a great source of vitamin B folate, which is also linked with depression.

I think bananas and chocolate is a great paring. 

Feeling down? Throw together an evening meal of wild salmon on a bed of quinoa. Sauté up some delicious baby spinach for an extra splash of folic acid, which alleviates depression and reduces* fatigue. We all hear about how important Omega 3’s are in our diet.

Sure we can pop a vitamin capsule but why when you can nosh on the succulent wild. 

Salmon is loaded with beautiful fatty acids, which can improve* mood fight depression, and not to mention, makes your hair shiny and your nails strong. 

Quinoa is having a serious moment right now takes advantage of its healing properties. A 2010 study in the Journal of Neuropharmacology. Names a flavonoid found in quinoa, (Quercetin) to stimulate depression-related signaling pathways.

The ones that involve neurotrophic factors resulting in improved* moods. 

Not only will you feel better you will look healthier too. And if you’re happy – I’m happy. Eat.

By Dr. Taylor Bean, ND

As a naturopathic doctor, one of the six fundamental principles of my work is: Identify and Treat* the Cause. This principle applies to every patient and condition that I see in my office.

One of the most common concerns I see is a change of mood. Men, women and even children can experience abrupt anxiety or low moods.

Potential causes for a change of mood include:
1.The loss of a love one or traumatizing event
2.An underlying medical condition or the side effect of a medication
3.Change in normal brain chemical (neurotransmitter) function

Within this article, I want to highlight how and why food plays an essential role in altering the levels of neurotransmitters.

First Is To Understand What Neurotransmitters Are And What Their Role Is.
Primarily, neurotransmitters work to regulate our behavior and maintaining a balanced mood. They are made from amino acids such as tryptophan and tyrosine which come from protein sources.

Which specific neurotransmitters are the most important in regulating mood? There are several, but the two most prominent ones include serotonin and dopamine.

I like to use graphs or visuals when I explain how certain nutrients are responsible for how we feel. Once you see a simple illustration, it is easy to see why you need to ensure you are getting adequate protein and specific nutrients to feel well-balanced.

The production of Serotonin and Dopamine

Neurotransmitter

As you can see from the diagram, there are several nutrients (in red) that support the conversion of the amino acids into neurotransmitters. (Please note I do not have an affiliation with this company).

What does Serotonin do for you? When someone complains of poor mood, low sex drive, irritability, and poor sleep I am thinking about low serotonin levels.

What does Dopamine do for you? When someone presents with a lack of motivation or satisfaction, poor memory and addictive behavior I start to think about low dopamine levels.

Now, what can our food do for us in terms of maintaining an overall state of wellbeing? Our nutrition provides the key amino acids and nutrients to make our happy brain chemicals.

What key nutrients do you need to support the enzymes that convert the key amino acids into serotonin and dopamine?

1.Folate (in the form of methylfolate)
2.Iron
3.Vitamin B3
4.B6 (in the form of p5p)
5.Vitamin C
6.Vitamin D

What Are Some Dietary Recommendations I Give My Patients?

1.Avoid refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
2.Avoid alcohol, caffeine and soft drinks
3.Increase* healthy fats such as avocado and coconut
4.Eat adequate lean sources of protein following a guideline of 0.8g/kg/day. Emphasizing on wild cold water fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel), legumes, nuts, and seeds
5.A whole food diet – try to stay away from prepackaged or canned foods. Reach for fresh, locally grown food.

Overall, it is key to ensure you are getting adequate protein consumption to provide the amino acids you need in combination with nutrients to make your happy brain chemicals.

By Gerry Ellen

Gerry Ellen
Linkdin

Do you ever feel as though each time you make the decision to create a meal, then shop at your local market for the ingredients, finally organizing and preparing everything for the meal, to actually cooking and serving the dish, every step of the way adds to your mood?

We live in a world where instant gratification takes precedence over the actual process of food innovation and food choices. As we focus on a balance of both intake and output, the primary reason for our desires with food revolve around what delights the senses, both savory and sweet.

I prefer the savory, anything with tartness and fire and saltiness really gives me joy. The flipside, for some people, are major sugar cravings. Our hormones play a big role in how we taste and smell, as well as our maturity and aging.

Our brains are pleasure seeking machines. What we put into our bodies has a profound effect on our emotions and our actions. It’s not simply a matter of satisfaction physically when we eat the brain receives its building blocks from our diets.

We have complicated relationships with food, whether it’s salt, fat, or sugar, and there are specific signals triggered when any (or all) are part of our daily diet. Our brain goes into survival mode, and that is the sole reason we nourish ourselves and make our food choices.

We have rituals around food. Providing timely meals that equate to how the synapses of our brain respond require satisfaction through fullness. If we are dieting and restricting our bodies also respond accordingly, by going into a rebellious survival.

Oftentimes, with our best efforts to lose* weight, we forego moderation through both dieting and exercise, and our systems say “no, we will hang onto this weight because the skin and muscles and ligaments are giving warmth and happiness.”

Food avoidance and abstinence are one of the most misunderstood topics surrounding how what and when we eat affects our emotions.

There will be spikes in energy when cravings are appeased, however understanding the pitfalls of ‘eating for happiness’ will allow the brain to be more on an even keel. Three things that can help to maintain a semblance of brain power and mood elevation are:

1.Eat Often – Small meals spread throughout the day, and prior to the stomach grumblings will alleviate any dips in energy, or have you reaching for foods you wouldn’t normally eat.

The meals can be protein laden (nuts, hardboiled eggs, avocado, greens, yogurt, for example) and give the body plenty of time to feel full. This not only reduces* cravings, it also boosts* brain power.

2.Knowing What to Avoid – Consistently eating and choosing junky processed foods has an instant gratifying sense attached to it, but in the long run, it does nothing for your overall nutrition. Pre-prepped foods in packages or cans, or most choices on the outskirts of the grocery aisles are considered last resorts.

Everything on the inner core of markets is the important and vital foods. Fresh vegetables and fruits are the primary sources for feeling stupendous about your body.

Whether juicing or salad-making or simply creating a meal around the colors of the food chart, there’s an appreciation whereby the brain instantly responds.

3.Try Not to Skip Meals – The framework of our bodies is in demand of solid nutrition. If we go without breakfast after 7-9 hours of sleep, if we are on-the-go and too busy, if we feel too full after a late lunch and decide against dinner, if our meals are too big and too laden with processed foods, if we drink alcohol in lieu of food, if we exercise late and forget to nourish post workout, all these factors will contribute to ill and irritable mood swings.

Refer back to number one above – keep meals small and eat often.

The baseline is yes, diet and food can absolutely affect your happiness. Just as we make time for our health through meditation, self-care, yoga, massage, walking by the ocean, loving relationships, it is imperative we fuel ourselves with real foods that are grown and down to earth, and made with compassion.

Our wellness depends on it.

Conclusion

While it might seem like an unlikely connection, diet has been linked to changes in mood and experts suggests that, instead of opting for medication that may yield unwanted side-effects, people should first consult their kitchen to help them improve* their mood and feel happier when it feels like life it getting them down.

There are many nutrients and foods that have been proven through numerous scientific studies to enhance* mood and make people feel happier almost in an instant. Here we looked at advice that was provided by a number of experts, who all commented on the connection between diet and happiness, and provided their opinion on this particular subject.

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Author

Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.