Warm bread fresh out of the oven, mom’s homemade spaghetti, and chocolate chip cookies could make anyone have a good day. While it’s no mystery that fatty or sugary foods can alleviate just about any bad mood, hardly anyone questions why while reaching for that next Oreo.
Dr. Lukas Van Oudenhove’s study at the University of Leuven in Belgium discovers that the fatty acids in comfort food may be what is making us so happy when we’re consuming junk food. The study examined 12 non-obese volunteers the morning after a 12-hour fast. The volunteers were hooked up to a gastric feeding tube that gave either saline solution or fatty acid and their brain activity was recorded during a 40 minute fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan.
Before the participants were given either the saline or fatty acid, the researchers played sad classical music and displayed sad faces on a screen. The results of the study were that the participants who were given the fatty acid were 50 percent less sad than those given the saline solution.
Dr. Lukas Van Oudenhove and his team proved that the fatty acids in comfort foods were able to give the participants the same feeling without the visual and oral stimulation of eating the food.
Although the fatty acids in junk foods may make you happy, there are several other healthy and natural ways to elevate mood. Instead of reaching for the bag of Doritos, cook a healthy meal with your spouse or a friend using fresh vegetables and protein. Also be sure to get plenty of exercise, known to give you endorphins which are natural mood elevators. Go out and take a walk, ride your bike, get on the elliptical, jump rope with your kids, go for a swim, or even dance around the room for 15 minutes. Reading or watching a really great movie with some healthy snacks is another way to get in a good mood.
If all else fails, go to a quiet room for some meditation. Meditating creates a calm body and mind in this multi-tasking, scheduled, and chaotic world.