Psychology and nutrition are two disciplines that are interrelated, and in recent years has received increasing attention in South Africa. There is a greater awareness of how our emotions affect how we eat and how we eat affects our emotional state.
In this blog post I will review one of the most important aspects of the psychology of eating and I will share with you the different foods that international and South African research has show to have an impact on our emotional state. But first...
Food and Emotions
The relationship between food and emotions is a phenomenon that has attracted interest from researchers who want to understand not only how food affects our mood, but also the influence of our emotions on eating behaviour. For example, when we are stressed we tend to eat more. The same can be said for when we're bored.
Studies in South Africa and abroad suggest that emotions are key to losing weight. Why? Because when we enjoy emotional balance, it is easier for us adhere to a diet and achieve our goals. According to research by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which involved 1,300 psychologists who answered questions about their work with clients who had trouble losing weight, emotions can hinder weight loss plans.
The Effect of Food on Our Body
What we eat affects our overall health, as food nutrients allow us to have an optimal energy level and allow us to supply the body with the necessary nutrients required for proper functioning.
Additionally, food also influences our mood because some foods contain amino acids and other chemicals, such as tryptophan , which is a precursor of serotonin. As you may know, serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and that, at low levels, is related to the depression and obsessive-like behaviour difficulties.
Emotional Foods: What Are They?
So, what foods affect our mood? A study by the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College tried to provide scientific evidence on foods that have a greater influence on the mood. The results are as follows.
Strawberries, abundant in South Africa, are a delicious fruit which are great when accompanied with cream. Besides being an aphrodisiac food, it also it appears to be ideal for improving ones emotional state. Why? Because of vitamin C, which has proved to protect endorphins - hormones related to pleasure, euphoria and sexuality. Also, strawberries contain potassium, which appears to be crucial in regulating the nervous system.
Another delicious fruit that also influences mood are cherries. Physically, they are good for reducing levels of uric acid, are used in the preventive treatment against gout, and contain anti-inflammatory properties . They also contact antioxidants that fight free radicals. Psychologically, they have a positive effect on mood, anxiety and stress levels.
Oatmeal is a cereal rich in protein and contains many antioxidants and vitamins. Because of this, oatmeal has many benefits for both physical and emotional health. Regarding the latter, it has been shown to fight off fatigue and low energy levels while also improving mood. It is also an excellent food to lose weight.
4. Milk and dairy products
Dairy products are a great source of vitamin A and B, and minerals, most notably calcium and phosphorus. They are also rich in high quality protein and amino acids that help improve memory and mood. Some studies claim that milk has a relaxing effect on the body because it contains tryptophan, which, as I said, increases serotonin levels, which is related to the positive mood.
In addition to milk, eggs are also rich in vitamins, minerals and high quality protein, so it has the same benefits as milk and its derivatives. In South Africa, eggs are available that have been fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, which has also been shown to protect the brain from mental illness.
Few foods are more delicious than chocolate. But only versions with high cocoa content are healthy. Chocolate releases dopamine and other neurochemicals related to pleasure such as endorphins , serotonin and phenylethylamine. Therefore, dark chocolate is good for improving mood and according to some studies can help us relax. However, its consumption should be moderate especially if trying to lose weight.
From a young age most of us have been told us to eat spinach, especially because it contains iron and vitamin C. But spinach is also rich in folic acid, which has been shown to increase serotonin levels and, subsequently, improve mood.
Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids should also be included in this list. As noted, omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in preventing mental illness. It is especially good at relieving depression and anxiety. Some fish high in these healthy fats include mackerel, sardines or salmon.
Pineapple is a very versatile exotic fruit, which can be added to salads and pizzas . Like many of the food above, it helps the production of serotonin, which helps improve mood. Pineapple also seems to help people with sleeping difficulties.
Research suggests that walnuts may contain important properties that influence mood since it is rich in vitamin B, protein and selenium. Selenium is a mineral that can positively influence mood, and studies suggest that diets rich in this mineral help people have clearer minds, greater self-confidence, less anxiety, and less confusion.
This blog post was proudly published in South Africa. By sharing it, you could help another person feel better, solve a problem or simply refocus their lives. Thanks for the support.