Health and Happiness Starts in the Kitchen

December 23, 2014 Updated: December 23, 2014

Health and happiness are more closely related to the foods we eat than many of us realize.  If we are mindful of how we react to food, some are nourishing to the body and we feel energized.  Others are depleting, which makes us feel sluggish and hardly on the higher end of the happiness food scale.

Eating whole foods is a sure way to energize ourselves while processed foods typically are depleted of nutrients.  Fresh fruit or fruit candy?  We all know the answer.  Fresh fruit in moderation is energizing while fruit candy gives us a momentary sweet taste to satisfy our sweet cravings, but all too soon is depleting because it does not nourish our bodies.  Without that nourishment, we continue to crave more food.

Eating smaller portions of food and more frequently throughout the course of the day with a healthy balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates is especially important as it helps to balance our blood sugar.  Any foods that raise blood sugar will inevitably be followed by a dramatic drop as insulin works to clear out the excess sugar.  Not a happy feeling!

Just in case you are thinking, “Oh, good, I can have bread and pasta as carbs with meals,” it’s not quite on the mark.  Unlike fruits and vegetables, which are complex carbohydrates, bread and pasta are simple carbs.  They run the fate of being broken down to sugar during digestion, again increasing our blood sugar levels and calling on insulin to the rescue, followed by the blood sugar dip. The same is true of high-glycemic fruits and juices, which very quickly enter our bloodstream and raise insulin levels.  Any fruit consumed with a little protein, such as nuts, will not enter the bloodstream so quickly.

Complex carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables also contain folic acid, which can help to boost serotonin levels in the brain.  Serotonin is known as a feel-good amino acid and it needs to be maintained at adequate levels to sustain that good feeling. Coffee actually can deplete serotonin and should be kept to a minimum.

Beyond food, exercise plays a role in our health and happiness.  Exercise helps to circulate lymph in the body to support our immune system.  Lymph itself helps to clear out toxins that are a product of cell metabolism and that we take in from the environment.   Over-exercise, on the other hand, can suppress the immune system.

Drinking water also helps to flush out toxins from our bodies, not to mention detoxifying teas such as dandelion, ginger, and milk thistle.  Laden with toxins, we feel sluggish and far from energized and happy. And of course a good night’s sleep.  It is pretty basic, but we all know that we are in a better mood with a good night’s sleep.  Sleep also is a detoxing and repair time for the body. No matter how well we eat and sleep, we still have to consider our relationships with others as they relate to health and happiness. Toxic relationships include unreliable, overbearing, and demanding people.  Sometimes we can successfully assert ourselves and come to a better understanding.  But when we reach a dead-end, we need to detoxify ourselves of these relationships.  Nothing in life can be done well with toxic levels of stress, including savoring the foods that we are meant to enjoyed, and nourishing to our body and spirit.