Eat Yourself Happy: The Emotional Benefits of Healthy Eating

If there was a magic potion that promised to improve your mood, mental abilities, and productivity, would you take it? You wouldn’t be alone. “One of the fastest growing industries in the world is the nutritional supplement group,” wrote Forbes health contributor David Lariviere. This industry produced about $32 billion in revenue for just nutritional supplements alone in 2012. “And it is projected to double that by topping $60 billion in 2021 according to the Nutritional Business Journal,” he added.

But as studies show that — quite literally — what we eat is what we are, new research shows that what we eat can influence what we want to become. If you desire a life filled with things like improved brain function, a better mood, and higher self-esteem, the key may be sitting on the plate in front of you.

Here are five ways healthy eating leads to a happier you.

1.Enhances mood

When you choose to see life in a glass-half-full kind of way, that improved mood leads to more creativity, increased productivity, and high energy. “Iron, folic acid, and thiamine are important nutrients that have strong links to mood,” wrote health writer Jill Lee. “Iron helps stabilize mood and energy levels, and deficiencies can lead to fatigue and a depressed mood. Incorporating iron-rich foods, such as meat, broccoli, seafood, egg yolks and iron-fortified grains, can help keep you feeling upbeat.” To maintain a positive mood, Lee recommends limiting foods such as sugar, white grains, caffeine, and alcohol.

2. Increases energy levels

When we make healthy eating a daily habit, our ability to be more productive shows in our higher energy levels. The experts at Harvard Medical School recommend eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils.

“Stocking up on healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, yogurt and low-fat cheese provide a quick energy boost,” wrote health contributor Alissa Fleck. “Drinking enough water and only consuming moderate amounts of caffeine and sugar also help regulate your energy levels.”

3. Reduces depression

If you want to shake the blues, don’t reach for the pint of ice cream or a dozen doughnuts. Instead, dig into a spinach salad or enjoy a bowl of beef vegetable soup. Research shows a lack of vitamin B12, iron, and calcium is often the culprit in mild cases of depression and anxiety.

In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers reported, “When we take a close look at the diet of depressed people, an interesting observation is that their nutrition is far from adequate. They make poor food choices and selecting foods that might actually contribute to depression.” The study listed the most common nutritional deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders are omega–3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters.

4. Improves learning ability

“One of our first steps in working with children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder is to examine their diet,” said Dr. JoQueta Handy of Handy Wellness Center, who specializes in learning and mental disorders. “A healthy diet creates a solid base for learning new techniques in education and improved social and interactive behavior.”

If you want to be smart and maintain strong brain function, don’t skip breakfast. A study conducted at Tufts University Department of Psychology found that when elementary school-aged children ate breakfast, this nourishment improved cognitive performance, particularly spatial memory, short-term memory, visual perception, and auditory vigilance.

5. Builds self-esteem

A healthy body image begins with healthy eating. “Self-esteem begins with our bodies,” wrote Shirley W. Kaplan, M.A., for the American Nutrition Association. “Since mind and body are one entity, the smooth, interrelated functioning of our body parts and our brain chemistry provide the foundation for an inherent sense of wellness.” She added, “My own learning and experiences put a high priority on investigating nutrition, chemicals, and the total environment, as well as emotional factors.”

If you are searching for a way to improve your mood, find more energy, reduce mild depression or anxiety, find sharper brain skills, and feel awesome about yourself, a healthy diet can help you take a bite of life’s hardships and enjoy a fuller, happier, more satisfying life in return.