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Food and Happiness

The relationship between food and happiness

Experts differ on the understanding of food and happiness, which diet is the healthiest and how it affects our feelings. The ultimate question is really how food impacts our happiness. One principle of the relationship between food and happiness, is: our emotions are greatly impacted by what we put into our bodies. It is not surprising that this is the case because our brains get building blocks from the foods we eat.

Your Brain is a Pleasure Seeking Machine

Our brains are wired for survival. Furthermore, the brain has a pleasure-seeking circuitry of dopamine-producing neurons. These neurons are primed for activation on the sight of any food, whether by smell, sight or memory. Certain foods are potential natural reward drivers, such as sugar, salt and fat. These foods trigger the release of key neurotransmitters such as dopamine on levels higher than other healthier foods.
The brain seeks pleasure while still seeking survival. Our brains reward us for consuming such foods which we have come to understand that they are harmful for our bodies.

Unfortunately, pleasurable foods do not always make us happy. Hyper-palatable foods are calorie rich and easily digestible foods. This means that they go down easily and generate a need to eat more food by triggering a powerful reward conditioning stimulus. As a result, studies show that overeating can be an addiction just like other addictive behaviors. Ironically, seeking pleasure foods does not guarantee us of happiness. On the contrary, people who ingest more of these pleasure foods end up with depression unlike people who consumed other healthier foods. The ultimate truth is that food that brings pleasure does not bring happiness.

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What Foods Then Make Us Happy?

Serotonin is associated with a happy feeling, where lack of serotonin, has been linked to depression. Furthermore, some anti-depressants are specially designed to increase the levels of the neurotransmitter in the brain. Serotonin is produced from tryptophan, an amino acid which has high concentrations in protein-rich foods, for example: Eggs, Almonds, Chicken Breast, Brussels Sprouts and more.
Logically, achieving happiness would dictate taking more foods rich in tryptophan and serotonin. However, high-protein foods actually block tryptophan from entering the brain. On the other hand, a high carb diet, will boost levels of tryptophan consequently increasing the levels of serotonin in your blood.

Unfortunately, carbs got such a bad rap over the years. Carbohydrates in your body increase blood sugar levels when you’re eating carbs. A harmful situation for your brain.
This should not prevent us from exploiting the advantages of carbs in increasing our happiness levels.
Strategic carb-based snacks, like Blueberries, Chestnuts, Low-fat yogurt, can do the trick. Furthermore, complex carbs, increase serotonin in your blood without causing spikes in your blood sugar by taking longer to digest, which means they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly.
We cannot fail to mention the importance of fats because our brains are 60% fat.

The flexible the fat membrane of your brain is, the better the relay information. The less flexible they are, the more processes are jammed and moods plummet.
Some healthy fatty foods are: Avocados, Cheese, Dark Chocolate, Coconuts and Coconut Oil, Fish (like Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, Sardines and Herring), Nuts (like Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia nuts) and more.
Generally, eating healthy keeps you happier. There is no catchall diet for individual happiness. Vitamins, vegetables, nuts, healthy fat and grains is a sure direction to take in search of your happiness.

30 thoughts on “Food and Happiness

  1. Very helpful points about how proper nutrition can increase happiness. I am proof of that, as I recently did an elimination diet and also started eating many fresh berries, especially blueberries. It was hard at first, but now I feel awesome, plus my inflammation level has reduced dramatically.

    1. Yes, Blueberries reduces inflammation which can reduce rates of depression and make you feel happier. I started, not long ago, adding turmeric spice in my cooking, which is known for It’s powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant, It also enhances mood :), try it and tell me how it was.
      Thank you for your comment. If you have any questions please let me know.

  2. Hi Emma,
    Thank you for explaining about different types of food and how our body processes them.
    I wish broccoli or Brussel sprouts could make me feel happy.
    But I can try more eggs, avocado, and nuts.
    My favorite is Dark Chocolate, of course.
    Healthy food is so important!

    1. Hey Mary,
      I couldn’t agree more! Healthy food is one of the first things you should think about when you want to achieve a healthier and happier lifestyle.
      Dark chocolate is also my favorite πŸ™‚

      Thank you for the comment, I hope you enjoy our healthy living website which includes healthy recipes, posts, tips for healthy living and more.
      I invite you to read our post “How To Keep Your Body Healthy” and share your thoughts.

  3. Good hint. Foods that brings pleasure does not bring happiness.Ok, I’ve to look for foods rich in Serotonin and tryptophan.
    Your mention of Avocados, Cheese, Dark Chocolate, Coconuts and Coconut Oil, Fish like Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, Sardines and Herring, Nuts like Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia nuts etc. makes my mouth start watering. Woohoo!

    That was a great read.
    Thanks for sharing this useful article.

  4. I never knew there are some foods which can keep us happy. Nice to know about that through your article. Thanks.

    1. Hey Deraj,
      Yes, food has a crucial part in keeping our body healthy and happy, not just in a physical way. There is a famous phrase I always liked: “you are what you eat, which means it is important to eat good food in order to be healthy and happy πŸ™‚
      I’m so glad you liked this article.
      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Hi Emma,
    I enjoyed reading your article. thanks for the great tips. Truly appreciated.

    1. Hi Jane,
      I’m so glad you liked my article! Hope you enjoy the rest of my articles on my site as well.

  6. I definitely agree with you, certain foods can make us happy. I find ginger root tea makes me calm and relaxed and wanted to share with everyone here. I normally boil and simmer a pitcher amount and fridge it when I need it. I normally warm up a cup at night and helps me relax. Which results in me feeling so great the next morning. I got friends who say they get energized by the tea so they drink it every morning. Thanks for this great article. Will be checking out for more!

    1. Hey Kris,
      I’m glad you like this article. Ginger is also known to strengthen immunity, improve blood circulation, improve stomach performance and more.
      Thank you for sharing this great tip!

  7. I don’t associate food with happiness anymore. I found that food that creates feelings of happiness usually have chemicals in them that are damaging, like sugar. I’ve adopted more of a carnivore, mostly meat diet and found that food is fuel. I now only need to eat when I’m hungry.

    1. Yes, I agree, food is fuel. But an all meat diet can be damaging as well. Like sugar, too much of anything is never good.
      I believe that happiness is balance.
      Thanks for your comment.

  8. Good article, very informative. I also wonder about the often cruel way animals are killed, the stress gets locked into the meat humans eat.

  9. I love this article, it gives me more ideas on foods to eat naturally to help fight mood swings and depression, although I do not suffer from any depression. This is helpful to my friends and family members who have it. I will share this with them!

  10. Great post, I am always looking for new and interesting ways to bring healthy foods in to my diet!

  11. Hello!

    Thanks for the helpful tips on eating healthier keeps you happier!

    I sometimes get a sweet tooth and I’ve noticed when I eat too much sugar it weighs me down and makes me more tired.

    This explains a lot of why I feel the way I do! How our body absorbs different foods make all the difference on how we’re feeling.

    Once again thanks for the helpful tips!

    All the best,


    1. Hey Jennifer, I’m happy you found this helpful! Let me know if you have any questions.
      Thanks for your comment!

  12. Hi Emma. My father always told us that we are what we eat. Thank you for your very informative article. I must admit I’m a food junkie. I love most foods, but fortunately for me I love Broccoli, Brussel sprouts and most other vegetables as well. I also love all fruit and nuts. So what does this mean for me? I should be healthy tight? No, I can’t leave those sugary foods (or non foods) alone either. Thank you for your very informative article. Jim

  13. Thanks for this great article and all the information! I love the list of healthy fat foods! Sometimes, if emotionally eating, we tend towards those carbs rather than satisfying the craving with something that is healthier for the body (and the mind). Thanks for the reminder πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Christina,
      Yes, most of times it is because we don’t understand what our bodies and mostly our emotions are trying to tell us. Listening to our bodies and learning what it needs can be challenging at first, but starting with nourishing our body with healthy food instead of empty carbs will help make us feel better and happier. Read this to know more about How to keep our body healthy.
      Thanks for your comment.

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"Some of the links are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Moran's Touch may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase."