What you eat is how you feel

Humans eat to survive. Without food, our bodies lose the ability to function. Now, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio has found that we also eat food to feel better. Students of online cooking schools may agree that when stress levels hit a peak, cravings for sugary foods can increase as well. What this study found is that our junk food cravings can not only cause our health to worsen, but can also make it more difficult to deal with stress.

When stress begins to build, Joe Hibbeln of the National Institutes of Health inferred that its better to lay off the French toast drenched in syrup and the bag of chips. He explained that eating to feel good, and not only to feel full, creates a whole new context through which we will have to funnel our weekly grocery shopping. When making grocery lists, shoppers will have to ask themselves “Will this food cause me stress?”

The food science of happy
The NPR, Harvard and Johnson Foundation study found that nearly 30 percent of people polled reported changing their diets during stressful times. These changes meant choosing foods with a higher glycemic index, which is the rate at which glucose and carbohydrate absorption occur. When this rate is high and the absorption happens quickly, it can result in a crash a few hours later. For those under stress, this can mean a less-resilient defense against stress symptoms.

In his career, Hibbeln studied how omega-3s can have a positive impact on consumers’ moods.

“You can either be good at weathering stress or you can be brittle,” Hibbeln, who published one study outlaying the positive effect omega-3s can have on depression, told NPR. “And omega-3s make your stress system more flexible.”

Hibbeln and other scientists have noted that bodies lacking any basic nutrients can often tip the scales of hormone levels. Eating a nutritional meal can help regulate these levels. But don’t start cooking meals with vitamins just yet: A traumatic event, whether coupled with healthy food or not, will still cause stress.

The mood market
For years, chocolate companies have been trying to encourage women to partake in their three-second bites of happiness. Now, perhaps other food producers will be able to advertise that not only does their food taste good, it makes you feel better too. In today’s economy, it wouldn’t be such a shock. Maybe chefs will begin organizing their menus based on the feelings they evoke – watch out Happy Meals!

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