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.