Be happy, it's good for you!

On the yoga blog we looked at the ways in which yoga can help us feel happiness. There is an article and video for you to enjoy. Please see 

Here we will be thinking about how food can influence our emotions.
Scientists are now recognising that being happy can have a positive effect on your health. People who are happy tend to age more slowly, and have a reduced incidence of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Also people who are happy tend to live longer.
It is important to recognise that happiness cannot be gained from material goods but comes from within.  Walking in nature, good health, friends and family can contribute to happiness but to be truly happy we need to nurture gratitude for what we have, forgiveness, optimism and self-acceptance.  We need to let go of negative emotions.  Anger in particular is destructive and can lead to the heart being electrically unstable.
Did you know that little acts of kindness can improve your own happiness?  When we do something kind for someone, it releases enorphins in the brain, which are your body's 'feel good' hormones. There is also a release of another hormone, oxytocin which has a role in cardiovascular health in that it relaxes blood vessels keeping blood pressure at a healthy level.  This hormone also makes your digestive system work more efficiently and slows aging by reducing free radicals and inflammation in your body.  All this just for holding a door open for someone, or giving up your seat on a crowded train.  Try it.

So how can the food we eat influence how we feel, mentally and emotionally?
  • There is a link between B vitamins deficiency and depression.  This is because vitamins B6, B12 folic acid are needed in the production of brain chemicals that determine mood.  For vegans B6 can be found in wholegrains such as oatmeal and rice, and soy beans.  Vitamin B12 can be difficult for vegans to get from their diet as it is found mainly in meat, fish and dairy foods.  Vegans should take a supplement.  Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables.
  • If you want to be happy avoid refined carbohydrates.  This means all foods containing sugar such as cakes, biscuits etc, white bread, white pasta and white rice.  The reason for this that these foods are absorbed into the blood quickly, causing blood sugar to 'spike'.  This leads the pancreas to release an excess of insulin, leading to a blood sugar 'dip' which in turn results in irritability.  However do not cut carbs out completely as they are needed to produce serontin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Deficiency of serontin can lead to depression.  Eat brown rice, wholemeal pasta, wholegrain bread etc.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine in tea, coffee and cola.  These can lead to irritability also because of their effect on blood sugar.  
  • Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to depression.  In the summer months we may be able to get enough vitamin D through the effect of sunlight on the skin but in the winter we need to get our vitamin D through our food.  Vegans can get vitamin D through fortified cereals and non-dairy 'milks' or take a supplement.
  • If you are deficient in iron, you will feel lethargic which impedes happiness.  Iron is available from plant sources, in particular spinach, kale, soya beans, tofu, sweet potato and oatmeal but is not as easily absorbed as from animal sources.  Increase absorption by having a source of vitamin C with the food which is a source of iron and avoid having tea with meals which impedes absorption.
  • Make sure you have some protein with each meal.  Two amino acids which make up protein are particularly worthy of note.  Tryptophan is used in your body to make serontin which balances moods and emotions.  It is found in bananas, walnuts, brown rice, soya milk and sunflower seeds. Tyrosine is used to make the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline which result in happy mood and an increased ability to handle stress.  Find it in almonds, and avocados.
  • Make sure you get your selenium from brazil nuts, soy beans etc as deficiency is associated with low mood.
  • Omega 3 eases the transmission of serontin from one brain cell to another and so protects against depression. Please see

Eat well be happy

Janet x

Article Copyright © 2014 40plusandalliswell

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