Eat your way to happiness
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a glazed donut.. (sorry).
We all deserve a treat. Which is why we turn to certain foods in times of low moods that we know we can trust to give us a bit of a boost. But what does “comfort food” mean to you? Do you often regard a pick-me-up titbit as a bar of chocolate? A biscuit? A slice of cake that you’ve justified to yourself because it’s a just a “teeny, weeny slither”? Of course, we’re all guilty. And of course, eating foods like this now and again is absolutely fine. However, (...and something that can’t be sugar-coated), according to research, we Brits eat 700g of sugar a week, making that an average of a whopping 140 teaspoons. And with this poor nutrition brings a bucket (and not the fried chicken or toffee popcorn kind) full of health problems, which, especially as we age, can have a long-term effect. Yet, whilst life is all about balance, after all, these cravings of comfort in food can still be enjoyed alongside an otherwise healthy, nutritious diet. But what does that diet look like? Well, grab your brew and bisc(….banana?) as we take you through the 5 top foods high in health benefits that can make us feel good and boost our happiness (and not our waistlines).
Fatty foods make us happy. Yes, you heard correctly! But before you pick up the phone to ring your local pizza takeaway, choosing the right fats is what’s key here. We’re talking Omega 3, which can be found in most fish and most predominantly in oily fish such as Salmon, and not saturated fats, which is what you’ll find in the foods directly linked to poor health. The fatty acids in Salmon not only help to raise the happy hormones in our bodies like dopamine and serotonin but also provide essential nutrients we need to keep fit and healthy. And remember, as the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea, so don’t fear if Salmon hasn’t got you hook line and sinker, as white fish and shellfish also contain mood-boosting properties you’ll be shore you won’t want to miss out on.
There’s a reason why Popeye* was all over this stuff. Packed full of power nutrients certain to put a pep in your step, spinach is an excellent source of folate in particular, which is a natural B vitamin that helps our brains to jump up serotonin levels that activate the happy hormone and keep our brains healthy. And did you know, similar to the ways certain foods can be matched with certain wines, there lies a secret to getting the most out of this healthy green. Pairing foods that are rich in vitamin C like tomatoes and lemon juice with spinach can allow for much more effective nutrient absorption. So, the next time you fancy a BBQ inspired meal to remind us of sunny days as the nights draw in, try sliding in some spinach leaves and tomatoes, so you can truly have your burger and eat it... (with your greens, of course).
(*Disclaimer - Spinach may not transform you into a muscled hero. But with a happy mind and a positive outlook, you are whoever you choose to be).
Eaten in moderation, nuts are packed with fibre, protein and healthy fats. A handful of mixed nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews and peanuts make for a nutritious snack when we’re down in the dumps, with due to their high vitamin B levels and the good fats that release (you guessed it) serotonin that makes us happy, they’re a great option for when blue moods bring belly rumbles (and those food cupboard cravings).
There’s no wonder we hear the sentence “I should have trusted my gut” frequently echoed around our living rooms whilst we watch disgruntled quiz show contestants show their dismay at their catastrophically incorrect answers. It’s because your gut knows what’s best. And in order to keep our gut well balanced and to fuel said considerate dependability when dilemmas arise, there are certain foods we can include in our diet. Kombucha, kraut, kimchi, and kefir (..don’t worry, you’re still on Planet Earth) all take on a process known as fermentation, which not only extends the usability and shelf-life of food but also plays a vital role in feeding our body healthy probiotics crucial to healthy digestion and a happy mind.
There’s no debate, chocolate really is a hug you can eat. Dark chocolate in particular, however, is a top source of antioxidants and releases those same endorphins we get after we exercise. So, (technically speaking), there needn’t be any guilt when your unbeknownst brain can treat those (just one.. or two.. or perhaps a naughty 3?) squares of dark chocolate the same as if you had just finished a 5-mile walk. Shh, it will never know.
But it must be said, although incorporating these 5 foods into your diet is important to maintaining a healthy body and mind, we cannot dismiss the fact that food can be celebratory. Food can be shared with others. Food can be fast and convenient. Food can be sweet, and at times, not sweet enough (with extra chocolate sprinkles on that, please). What can’t be forgotten is that it’s not necessarily what’s on the table that contributes to overall happiness, but instead implementing inner change in individual perspective and living life exactly how you want to. Just a bit of food for (happy) thought.
Want to find out more?
We run events at our Inspired Villages all year around. Join our mailing list to get all of the updates on our future events.