Food and Happiness
With it being such a miserable summer, for a lot of people as regards the weather plus economic issues I though I would update something I researched a while ago.
Richard Laynard described hapiness as “feeling good and enjoying life”. A study in 2001 showed that those who experienced more positive emotions lived longer than those who did not.Our diet in the UK has changed dramaticaly over the last 3 decades with a greater consumption of processed foods, more sugar and salt, less fibre, less vegetables and less omega 3 fatty acids. Some researchers believe that this change in diet may have contributed to a rise in depression.
Depression and stress can alter food consumption with some sufferers avoiding food and others over eating.
So what did I find linked with happiness? The key factors seem to be relatively simple ones;-
- Eat regular meals –so breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Eat meals with companions –eat with family and friends –socialising makes us happier
- Shop for foods and cook food –how lovely to see that cooking comes out as so important
- Take adequate fluid –that all important 2 litres per day. A lack of fluid can lead to feelings of tiredness and a lack of mental alertness
- Include some caffeine –so coffees, chocolate, teas and colas can be useful but only small amounts. Chocolate is associated with pleasure and happiness. It contains substances such as the stimulants thoebromine and caffeine.
- Include a small amount of alcohol However when taken in excess alcohol has the reverse effect.
- Take adequate carbohydrate especially those with a low GI. Carbohydrates stimulate the production of serotonin one of the mood enhancing hormones. Low GI foods also help to keep the all important blood glucose level
- Ensure that the diet contains enough iron, magnesium and selenium. A lack of iron is well known to be associated with iron deficiency anaemia which results in symptoms such as tiredness and apathy, which are hardly likely to precipitate a happy state of mind. A lack of the trace element selenium is thought to have a negative effect on mood
- Take foods containing omega 3 fatty acids. Lack of omega 3 fatty acids has been associated with irritability, depression and low moods
- Take foods containing B vitamins and vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D is associated with a low mood and depression and B vitamins are regarded as being essential for mental health.
- Try to be a healthy weight but not over slim –size 14 was found to be the happiest size for women.
The information contained in this blog contains extracts from a full food and happiness paper I wrote for Nutrition and Food Science.