October 24, 2012 Jeanne Rust

Eat for Happiness: Five Tips

Our brains control how we feel, whether we're feeling depressed or feeling joy! Are we learning to regulate our feelings by simply popping a pill? Yes, with a pill, we'll feel better quickly but I believe in taking a more holistic and longer lasting approach.

What are our underlying reasons for being depressed?

Why do we feel depressed, then in a relatively short time, feel joy?

Are we depressed simply because we have a chemical imbalance in our brains?

Are we depressed because of trauma or any kind of issues we've had happen in the past?

ll of the above questions may result in depression or any other mood-state we may be experiencing.

If we're not going to immediately take a pill, where can we begin?

The answer is simple. We start with what we're eating! If we're consuming the typical American diet, we'll be eating loads of sugars, refined carbohydrates, and industrial fats that are loaded with artery clogging trans-fats. In the US we are seeing unprecedented levels of obesity and diabetes. Also the frequency of brain disorders such as depression and even dementia are also increasing rapidly and we can blame the American diet.

I read in an online blog that people who eat a diet of processed foods will have higher incidences of depression, anxiety, mood swings, ADD, and other emotional problems, including eating disorders.

The writer of the blog (I wish I would have written his/her name down so I could have given you the reference and given the writer credit!) also mentioned a couple of significant studies. One study showed that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets were 79% more likely to suffer from depression. Another study found that trans-fats from processed foods resulted in an increase in depression by 42% among adults over a period of six years. The Harvard school of public health found that the risk of depression declined in those people who consumed the greatest amount of Omega-3 fats.

Many people take these findings to the extreme by becoming vegetarian and vegan. We find an increase in the numbers of people with orthorexia (an eating-healthy syndrome).

What do can I do?

What in the world do I eat?

What is the easiest way to eat well, eat normally, and feel great?

The following five suggestions will help people eat in an optimum, healthy way, and maximize our brain health:

  1. Skip processed foods. Period. Eat whole foods with brain healthy qualities such as leafy greens, grains, nuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and blueberries. These are all of the foods we've been hearing about but have yet to eat! If you focus on getting your protein from beans, fish, eggs, chicken, even low-fat pork, you'll be making a good start. Think about figuring out some easy menus – chicken breast or a piece of fish, baked, a sweet potato microwaved, and a little salad. With the salads in a bag that are available now, it's a snap to make a little salad with an olive-oil and vinegar dressing to go with the rest of your meal. Your moods will level out, your blood sugar will normalize, and your thinking will get clearer.
  2. Many people today are still touting organic foods. Recent studies are finding that organic foods are not necessarily better for children and adults. My rule of thumb is to buy foods that look the best and what I know to be the healthiest (not very scientific, I know). Buy your food in bright colors. Check it out!
  3. Remember that there are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are those like flax seed oil and omega-3 fats that help protect your brain and help you feel satisfied. Bad fats are all of the trans-fats that are still contained in many packaged foods.
  4. Be careful about the meat you consume. Animal products such as fish, lean meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy are good sources for omega-3 fats DHA, EPA, and another fat, CLA, which is associated with fighting cancer. Deficiencies of vitamin B12 are common among vegans that put them at risk for brain and nerve damage. Always try to get hormone-free and antibiotic-free beef, pork, and chicken. They may cost a little more, but since you're eating less meat, the costs will even out.
  5. Farmers markets can become your new favorite shopping centers! Learn which foods contain the most nutrients for brain health. "The goal is not to become a food snob," but make the connection between your food and feelings. I've claimed for years that food is medicine. For someone who is not well in any way, the first piece of healing can be eating foods that support emotional well-being and enhance your vitality.