Can Your Diet Make You Happy?

27th August 2019

There are many ways in which we can achieve happiness in our lives — practising self-care, spending time with loved ones or treating ourselves to a special something. But have you ever wondered, do the foods we eat also have an impact on how we feel? It is a topic that is becoming well researched as more people become conscious to what they put into their bodies. The array of nutrients and compounds found in different foods are hugely complex, and they all have a potential effect on our bodies and minds. In this journal entry, we take a look into the science of food and happiness.

A person holding a freshly picked red apple

Physical Health

According to a study published by Healthline, our physical health affects our happiness in two different ways. Firstly, eating foods that provide you with a steady flow of energy throughout the day could help you to feel more productive and energetic, thus improving mood. The study further details the top foods for maintaining energy levels include bananas, brown rice and sweet potatoes. In the same article, Healthline suggests that maintaining steady energy levels throughout the day can help you to stay alert and focused.

Alternatively, some people find that the way they feel about how they look can have a degree of impact on factors associated with happiness, such as self-esteem. While a healthy diet is not necessarily the answer to total body confidence, some people find that eating a diet that helps to maintain a healthy weight and boost energy levels could improve their overall mood and wellbeing.

Serotonin

Serotonin is a chemical produced by our brains that has a wide variety of functions in the human body and has been commonly associated with wellbeing and happiness as reported by Medical News Today. Cited from their research, serotonin is believed to play a role in the bodies cognitive, motor and autonomic functions, as well as emotion and appetite. Tryptophans are an amino acid found in certain foods. The same article reports that some studies have linked higher consumption of tryptophans can lead to increased serotonin levels for an example, high protein foods such as eggs, cheese, turkey and salmon were found to increase blood levels of tryptophans.

A fox basking in the sun

Flavonoids

A study published by the NCBI, links the high consumption of flavonoids to decreased chances of depression. It details that flavonoids may have a positive effect on executive function (EF), and that impaired EF is linked to low mood and depression. So, the theory is that eating foods that contribute to enhanced EF could help to reduce depressionogenic cognitive processes and improve mood. Flavonoids are a micronutrient that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea and cocoa (did someone say chocolate?).

An avocado on a chopping board with a knife

Endorphins

Produced naturally by the bodies nervous system, endorphins are our bodies response to pain and has also been linked to feelings of happiness as found by Medical News Today. Summarising the studies that try to determine the causes and effects of endorphins on the brain, it reports that people who partake in activities such as meditation and vigorous exercise have shown increased levels of endorphins. Chocolate has long been linked to happiness but is this true? The same article summarises two studies that suggest the flavonoids found in cocoa can boost endorphin levels. It’s worth noting that some types of chocolate do not contain very high levels of cocoa, and you should look for products that contain at least 70% cocoa. There is also some research to suggest that eating spicy foods may have a similar effect.

To summarise, although research is in the early stages, it is likely that there is a link between nourishing food and happiness. A healthy balanced diet is recommended to help our bodies get the full range of vitamins and nutrients it needs. At Balance Holidays, we are all about encouraging harmony in all aspects of life. Our healthy cooking retreats can provide you with recipes and skills to take home with you and continue your balance journey. If you have liked this entry to our journal, and want to find out more about food and travel, take a look at our favourite foods from Tuscany.