To reap the benefits, you need to cut the bad and add the good
As more and more individuals in developed countries grapple with being overweight or obese, new so-called miracle diets pop up almost daily. Clearly, consumers have begun to examine what makes our waistlines shrink or expand, but have we taken pause to consider how specific foods play into our feelings? Most people who finally “lose the weight” remark how much better they feel and how much more energy they have. However, our physical appearance is only the tip of the psychological iceberg; science shows that what we eat and how we feel are connected far beyond our size.
Interestingly, our food preferences seem to be dictated from a young age, based initially in biological needs. Most newborns show a preference for sweet tastes, versus sour or bitter tastes, as measured by facial expressions. This is actually the result of a biological adaptation “in which sweetness indicates the presence of valuable calories, whereas bitterness or sourness may signal the presence of toxins.” So while we may not always be able to resist a sweet tooth, and while we may be able to ignore the physical effects of poor nutrition for decades, like cancer or heart disease, knowing how what we eat affects how we feel gives us more immediate agency over what goes into our bodies.
Research shows that lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods and higher intakes of unhealthy foods are each independently associated with smaller left hippocampal volume (near the center of the brain), which appears to be related to the development of major depression. In other words, feeling better emotionally isn’t just about cutting out certain foods; it’s equally about adding in more of the good.