It might seem a bit odd that food should make us happy. After all, we eat to sustain ourselves. From the food we eat, we derive macronutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates that our bodies use for fuel and other essential functions. We also get vitamins and other nutrients from food that our bodies can't process but still require. Certainly, we need food, but why would some foods make us happy when we eat them?
The science of happiness has figured out why certain foods make us happy. It turns out that some foods are made of compounds that have been shown to have an effect on our mood. Even more interesting, going without certain foods can have an opposite effect, putting us at a higher risk for depression.
Comfort eating has become a national sport during lockdown. There has been a growing body of evidence, both animal studies and human studies, to support that we really are what we eat, physically and mentally.
Serotonin, also known as the “happy” neurotransmitter, is clearly an important facet of food and happiness since you need it to regulate sleep and pain. Lack of serotonin has been extensively linked with depression, and there are many well-known antidepressants, such as Prozac, that specifically aim to raise levels of this neurotransmitter.
Foods that aid serotonin production include spinach, turkey and bananas. Spinach contains high concentrations of folate, a B-vitamin used in the serotonin creation process. Bananas and turkey pack lots of tryptophan, an amino acid that's converted into serotonin in the brain. This makes tryptophan a rarity, since serotonin can't cross this blood-brain barrier. So, which side do we take? It’s complex—quite literally. Complex carbs that take the body longer to break down—are the best way to incorporate serotonin-producing foods into your diet without causing major spikes in blood sugar.
Many products include specific health claims like protein and vitamin intake that attracts any health-conscious snackers. The familiar potato crisp satisfies in flavour and nostalgic comfort but would be hard-pressed to add health benefits to its advantages. However, the appeal of alternative savoury snacks is not purely about nutrition. The combination of “healthier” alongside familiar indulgent flavours and the freedom to snack happily is key. Products like broccoli crisps, kale chips, and roasted peas are playing into the increasing need for health-conscious snacking well, providing novelty of format that speaks to a need for more diverse, particularly plant-based, snacking options.These cutting-edge snacks are successfully tapping into a shift away from indulgent snacking versus pure uncompromising health foods to a more flexible sense of wellbeing.
In conclusion, eating healthfully not only keeps our bodies in better condition to handle illness, aging, and stress, but it can make us happier people in the long run. Research shows that the effects of eating well do not appear as immediately; in other words, they’re not the immediate surge of glee we get from downing a doughnut. It’s crucial to take the long view.