A Healthy Diet Makes You Happier

Most of us think of “happy foods” and immediately picture ice cream, cake or other decadent treats that make us feel good. However, while sugar or fried things might make us happy in the moment, it turns out that a healthy diet not only impacts our physical wellbeing, it can affect your mood and make you a happier person. This is really motivating information for those of us who might find it difficult to get enthused about our veggies. This isn’t new news, we have heard it for a while, but recently published research has added yet more proof to the theory.

A study from Univ. of Warwick and the Univ. of Queensland several years ago tracked the diets of 12,000 adults over several years. By adding one serving of fruit or vegetable to their diets, participants were able to increase their levels of happiness noticeably. Happiness benefits grew per serving up to eight additional servings. The people who had previously eaten hardly any fruits or veggies and started eating eight servings a day saw the equivalent in their happiness growth to unemployed people finding a job. This is just one example; other studies have linked healthy fats, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids to feeling happier. And, as one might expect, removing processed food was also seen to make a difference.

Earlier this year, a study at Deakin Univ. looked at 67 people with depression. The group was divided into two. Half the participants changed their diet to be healthier; the other half got more engaged in social activities and had more company. People who ate healthily were markedly happier than the folks who had improved their social lives.

Prof Felice Jacka, who ran the study, said, “Whole (unprocessed) diets higher in plant foods, healthy forms of protein and fats are consistently associated with better mental health outcomes. These diets are also high in fiber, which is essential for gut microbiota. We’re increasingly understanding that the gut is really the driver of health, including mental health, so keeping fiber intake high through the consumption of plant foods is very important.

Another study conducted at the same time added that treats only “induced eating happiness” and not the overall happy impact that a healthy diet did.

Work published last month took an overall look at why a healthy diet made such a difference. They saw that reducing salt while enjoying a mix of lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, starches, fruits and vegetables impacted people’s health and wellness. It might be a mix of physical benefits and mental benefits that bring people’s happiness levels up. The research saw people maintained health weights more easily, slept better, had better cognition and memories, improved gut and heart health, healthy bones and a lower risk of cancer. That combination of a clear mind and a more comfortable body may explain why people were happier.

While the jury is still out on why a healthy diet can improve happiness, the evidence is strong that there is a serious link. Ice cream can undoubtedly cheer you up, and occasional treats have their place, eating healthy makes us happier in the long run. While we might not always be enthusiastic about whole grains and broccoli, this knowledge makes us more motivated to embrace overall healthy eating!
October 02, 2019
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