Irrespective of the ample research disparities, if there is something that experts agree upon, it is that the food we eat has a huge impact on our mood and emotions.
A low level of serotonin has been associated with depression. Well-known anti-depressants function by raising the level of serotonin. The key amino acid needed for the synthesis of serotonin is tryptophan. If there is no tryptophan in the body, serotonin is not produced.
Tryptophan is present in protein rich foods. Protein is a formed by the coming together of several amino acids and tryptophan happens to be one of the amino acids. Logically, one may want to think that consuming protein-rich food will sustain their happiness because of their high level of tryptophan. Unfortunately, that is not true.
As well as being fuel, food is a sign of love. We feed our friends and family to show them we love them and vice versa. This very principle can be applied to yourself. You can express self-love by allowing yourself to truly appreciate the food you enjoy. Although constant overeating will have undesirable consequences, occasional indulging purely for pleasure is essential for true inner happiness and will not compromise your health.
To nourish yourself is to practise self-care, and to practise self-care is to practise self-love, which is a crucial component of inner happiness.
Allow yourself regular treats so that you never feel deprived of the foods you enjoy. Enjoy these treats in moderation as an addition to a healthy and balanced diet. It is important never to replace meals with processed snacks as they will not provide your body with the fuel it needs, but remember that they will still contribute to your overall energy consumption so should not be consumed in excess. Focus on preparing wholesome and nourishing meals for yourself.
When we are not happy very often we turn to food to fill the hole in our lives and this can lead to obesity and dependence. Unhappy people turn to comfort foods like ice cream, pasta or mashed potatoes, all foods which release energy very quickly into the blood. A quick fix of a scoop of ice cream makes you feel good for a while but very soon you are back to feeling worse than before, so you need more scoops of ice cream to correct the balance. There is a classic pattern of peaks and troughs leading to greater amounts of fatty sugary foods to try and balance our moods.
Over to you
As well as giving us life, food gives us pleasure and comfort, and therefore our relationship with food can be complicated. What we eat is often ruled by our minds, and our minds often use food to reward or punish our bodies. Overindulging in food can bring short-term happiness whilst restricting food can act as a temporary coping mechanism. Although the majority of us yo-yo between phases of over- and under-eating throughout our lives, the key to long-term happiness is to eat mindfully while respecting and nourishing our bodies. Remember that food is not only fuel for our bodies; it is fuel for our souls!