These foods can lift your mood when you're depressed

Food has a significant impact on our happiness, and we don't just mean emotionally eating carbs and junk food. So what foods can take us out of depression straight into the warm embrace of happiness?

 Eating the right food can help manage and lower your stress levels (illustrative) (photo credit: PEXELS)
Eating the right food can help manage and lower your stress levels (illustrative)
(photo credit: PEXELS)

Food is a common ground for many people. Writer Virginia Woolf said that a person cannot think well, love well, nor sleep well unless they are well-fed. Italian director Federico Fellini claimed that life is a combination of magic and pasta, while Socrates historically said, "Others live to eat; I eat to live."

Food has a major impact on people's happiness. This comes through social and cultural relationships, through mood regulation, the release of feel-good hormones such as dopamine, and even through eating food with nutritional value that contributes to improving overall health. 

Universal happiness starts in your stomach 

Mood regulation: Food can affect mood by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. For example, carbohydrates can increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and promote feelings of happiness.

On the other hand, carbohydrates don't necessarily always make us feel good. Eating foods rich in simple carbohydrates and sugars may lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels followed by a rapid drop in sugar levels. This rapid change can cause feelings of irritability, fatigue, and feeling "down." Choosing natural, unprocessed foods and eating balanced meals with a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote stable energy levels.

 Israeli food in Huston Texas  (credit: The Israeli Consulate to the Southwest) Israeli food in Huston Texas (credit: The Israeli Consulate to the Southwest)

Pleasure and enjoyment: Eating tasty food can activate the reward centers in the brain and release feel-good chemicals such as dopamine. Indeed, studies have found that consuming chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is associated with a positive mood and improved emotional well-being.

At the same time, it turns out that even though we thought pure happiness was found in a good chocolate cake or creamy pasta, studies that examined the relationship between food and happiness found that people who reported consuming fast food with high frequency, had lower levels of happiness and mental well-being compared to those who ate fast food infrequently More.

In contrast, a study published in the journal Social Indicators Research found that people who reported eating more fruits and vegetables had higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being compared to those who consumed fewer fruits and vegetables. So it can be said that chocolate may cause momentary pleasure but absolutely not long-term happiness.

Social connection: Sharing meals with others can promote social connection and improve mood. Eating together can create senses of connection and community that can contribute to happiness. Sharing a meal with loved ones or enjoying a special treat can also be a source of pleasure and happiness.

Nutritional value: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can improve overall physical health, which in turn can promote happiness. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and magnesium have been linked to improved mood, mental well-being, and reduced risk of depression. In addition, there is a complex relationship between the gut and the brain known as the gut-brain axis. Eating a healthy and varied diet including a lot of fiber can help support a healthy composition of gut bacteria which has been linked to improved mood and cognitive function.

Cultural and emotional ties: Food can also have cultural and emotional connections, which can affect happiness. Eating foods associated with positive memories or cultural traditions can create a sense of comfort and nostalgia, which can contribute to happiness.

The people we dine with and also the types of foods we consume play a significant role in our happiness and well-being. Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods can help support a healthy mind and body, which can lead to greater happiness and a better overall quality of life.

Hadas Hardon is a clinical dietitian, and a nutrition coordinator in the field of nephrology and multiple sclerosis at Maccabi Health Services.