Creating more happiness - Step 4: EAT WELL!
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
We’ve all heard the adage, “you are what you eat”. That’s not just some catchy marketing line, it is backed by comprehensive, scientific research. Some foods, such as dairy, have been found to have a negative impact on our mental well-being. Some studies show a correlation between the consumption of animal-based milk and cheeses with increased rates of depression. While some plant-based foods have been shown to elevate moods and improve cognitive wellness.
Here’s a short list of some of these happy foods and why they may help make you smile:
Dark Chocolate! – let’s open right up with the good stuff! Dark chocolate is high in heart-healthy flavonoids. Mmmm, flavonoids. What is a flavonoid, you ask? And why should you care? Flavonoids help regulate cellular activity and fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress on your body. Basically, they help your body perform more efficiently and help protect it from the impact of the toxins we regularly encounter. Flavonoids also help keep the blood flowing to your brain. They reduce inflammation, and boost brain health – all of which lead to better mental well-being. Finally, chocolate has a “high hedonic rating”, meaning that its pleasing taste, texture, and smell may also lift your mood. Stick to the dark chocolate, though. The addition of sugars and dairy in milk chocolate can have an adverse effect on your mood.
Fermented Foods – Fermented foods, such as kimchi, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and (my personal favourite) kombucha, may improve gut health and your mood. The fermentation process creates probiotics which are micro-organisms that support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. The presence of these healthy bacteria lifts your serotonin levels, which, in turn, lift your mood.
Not all fermented foods are created equal. You might be thinking that other foods such as bread or wine also contain fermentation. These don’t assist your body in the same way, however, due to the processing and cooking, which damage their efficacy. Pass on the pastry and vino and try adding some sauerkraut to a tofu wrap or crack open a sparkling kombucha instead of a sugary soda or beer. Your gut will thank you.
Bananas – Bananas always make me smile. They even look like big smiles! Not only are bananas an incredibly versatile food that I use in everything from cookies to pancakes to stir-frys, but that are so good for you! Most people know that bananas are high in potassium, but they are also high in B6 which plays an important role in mood regulation. B6 is necessary for the creation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that help level emotions. B6 is even recommended, in some cases, for treating the symptoms of PMS. Plus, they are high in fibre, which is a key component of maintaining a good digestive system. A happy gut makes a happy guy (or girl).
Oats – this awesome wholegrain will keep you smiling all morning long. It’s high in fibre, providing as much as 8 grams in a single raw cup. Studies show that people who consume even 1.5-6 grams of fibre in the morning report increased energy levels and elevated moods throughout the day. They also contain 19% of your daily requirement of iron. Low iron levels can cause fatigue and mood disorders. Soak a cup of oats in almond or oat milk overnight or even eat raw, simply pouring your plant milk of choice overtop of the uncooked oats. Add some blueberries for added benefits! What benefit? Next…
Blueberries – or any berries – Berries contain a wide-range of antioxidants, combatting oxidative stress – an imbalance of compounds that cause stress in the body. Berries are high in anthocyanins, a big word for the pigment that gives certain berries their blueish-purple colour. Some studies connect a diet rich in anthocyanins with a 39% lower risk experiencing symptoms of depression.
Eat well. Stay Well. Be Happy. Be OM SO HAPPY