Saturday, February 25, 2012

Happiness and Health: Boosting our Moods by Eating Happy Foods

Image: slashfood

 You all know I'm a big believer in "signs" - those subtle little hints in life that point us in the direction we need to go in, that give us the ok to move forward with something we've been contemplating, or that send us a message just at the time when we need it most. I've written a lot about my own "signs" quite a bit, in 2 Signs of Positivity, and in all six of my Signs, Signs, and More Signs series. So it should come as no surprise that I stumbled on another one yesterday.

This sign, however, came through in the most unexpected of places. In doing some research at work for a health-related article I was writing, I came across some nutrition infographics and decided to browse through a few to see if there was any relevant information for my article. As I browsed through the thumbnails of about fifteen images, I found one that was entitled "15 Facts You Didn't Know About Bananas", and since I do love bananas (especially with peanut butter) I decided to read through it. I really don't know that much about bananas, so why not, right?

After learning about their origin and that they're actually a seed (did you know that!?) I came across Fact #11 which read: Eating a banana can cheer you up. Bananas are the only fruit to contain the amino acid tryptophan plus vitamin B6, which together help the body produce seratonin - the natural chemical which alleviates mental depression. (It's also found in Prozac).
Leave it to me to find a fact about happiness while randomly reading an infographic about bananas, of all things. So odd. 

Well, that peaked my interest in mood-boosting foods, so after work I continued my research to learn more about how we can use our diet to increase our happiness. I found some more proof backing the fact I read earlier about the benefits of bananas - specifically a report from a study at Oxford University, where researchers found that women recovering from depression who were deficient in tryptophan had a higher chance of regressing back to depressive states.

I made a note of the other facts that I found along the way and thought I'd share the info with you. Here is a list of what I'm calling "Happy Foods", or foods that have mood-boosting benefits:
  • Turkey, pinapple, cottage cheese, soy-based foods, and lobster - Like bananas, these are all are good sources of tryptophan which help create mood-enhancing seratonin in the brain. 
  • Chocolate (but we already knew that, didn't we?) - Apparently it's the combination of the emotional response - the velvety texture, sweet aroma, good memories it produces - along with a little bit of caffeine and its sugar content, which boosts seratonin levels.
  • Spinach - This veggie is rich in folate, which also helps to boost seratonin. A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that people who consumed the least folate were 67 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who took in the most. That's incentive enough to stock up on this vitamin, which is also found in veggies like asparagus, broccoli, and beans.
  • Walnuts and Salmon - These are some of the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids and uridine, which in combination with each other, help improve communication between neurons in the brain. This is the same action that antidepressant drugs perform - just in a natural way!

Make sure to add these items to your grocery list and start incorporating them into your diet. I'm loving this connection between health and happiness, and today's featured quote shares my feelings exactly:
To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.  - Buddha
Very true - it is absolutely a duty. It's easy to say that we should eat healthier or that we'll start our new eating plan next week, but we've got to do it now. Today.

Now we've got all the evidence that we need to know that in order to be happy and keep our mind strong and clear, we must make our health a priority. And we can even eat chocolate! Sweet.


Keep Smiling,

4 comments:

  1. How ironic, we must be on the same wave length! My grocery shopping yesterday consisted of bananas, black beans, fresh spinach and asparagus ,broccoli and swiss chard. All I was missing was the chocolate but it's now lent in the catholic religion so I'll have to wait on that for a while! Great Blog as well as Great Post! Look forward to your next post as always!

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    1. Awesome! Looks like your diet will be making you happy this week :)

      Keep it up - gotta love being happy AND healthy!

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  2. It is fascinating which foods are known mood enhancers, but I am not sure about your combination of peanut butter with banana.

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    1. Believe me on this one...pb and banana is so delicious! I couldn't find peanut butter very easily when I was in Italy - I guess it's not very popular there- but give it a try and let me know what you think!

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