Diet is still a big downfall of mine.
I wrote recently about wanting to follow a more Mediterranean based diet and I came up with some action points to tackle my problem areas. Well I haven’t stuck to any of them. I am still binge eating junk, not eating 3 planned meals a day, not really exercising and still relying on ready meals instead of cooking for myself.
So, it was quite apt that the chapter I am reading this morning in my happiness book is about how the food we eat can help make us happy.
The link between food and health is something I have been looking into anyway since I started thinking about the Mediterranean diet.
As well as reading, I’m also a bit of an online course junkie, I love all the free MOOCs that are out there at the moment and so on this theme of food and diet I was interested to see a course from Futurelearn that started today: Food as Medicine.
The course initially looks at the idea of food as medicine from a historical perspective. In fact if you go all the way back to Hippocrates the father of medicine there was a discipline called dietetics which realised what people ate affected their health. Also, I find it fascinating that the ancient Greeks and Romans recognised mental health too and they would prescribe food for people who were ‘of weak character’ (thankfully an expression no longer used).
There is no secret that a healthy diet is a happy one, what we eat really does impact our mood but there is also no quick fix in terms of a single ‘happy diet’.
Tryptophan is something that comes up when thinking about food and mood. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is the precursor of serotonin a chemical in the brain that is involved in mood. However just taking a tryptophan supplement won’t work as it needs to work alongside complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, folic acid, magnesium and possibly other chemicals too.
There do seem to be some general principles of ‘happy eating’ that I have found from multiple sources.
- Avoid empty calories – in other words junk food
- Eat whole grains such as rice, wholemeal bread as the foundation of at least one meal a day
- Lots of fruit and vegetables
- Regular consumption of nuts (brazil nuts for the selenium), seeds and legumes
- Minimise trans-fatty acids – lamb, beef, dairy and margarine
- Minimise saturated fat – animal products
- Minimise Omega 6 – animal products and vegetable oil
- Maximise monounsaturated fat – olive oil
- Maximise Omega 3 – oily fish, rapeseed oil, soy, walnut and flaxseed oils.
- Limit alcohol to 14 units a week
- Eat spicy food – chilli peppers contain capsaicin a natural pain killer
- Eat dark chocolate
I am really going to try with my diet this week. I think I need some easy specific targets for the next week.
- I will not buy any junk food (milk chocolate, crisps, unhealthy snacks) for the next 7 days.
- I will eat at least 3 portions of fruit and veg a day (hopefully more).
- I will use only olive oil in my cooking
- I will eat oily fish at least once this week.