As August continues to celebrate Happiness Happens Month, I want to get back to how food affects our happiness, which I touched on briefly a few weeks ago. The inspiration came from a mention of it in Ann Pietrangelo’s article, How To Be Happy: 25 Habits To Add To Your Routine (Jan. 15, 2019). I recommend checking out the full article at Healthline.com.
I thought it was really interesting when Ann pointed out, in #4 Eat With Mood In Mind of her article, that different types of food can affect our moods in different ways; confirming that we are what we eat! So I wondered, if foods affect our moods and happiness, then what should we eat to always feel our best and happiest? Ann’s examples included the following generalizations…
Carbohydrates release serotonin, a ‘feel good’ hormone. Just keep simple carbs — foods high in sugar and starch — to a minimum because that energy surge is short, and you’ll crash. Complex carbs, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, are better.
Lean meat, poultry, legumes, and dairy are high in protein. These foods release dopamine and norepinephrine, which boost energy and concentration.
Highly processed or deep-fried foods tend to leave you feeling down. So will skipping meals.
Start by making one better food choice each day. For example, swap a big, sweet breakfast pastry for some Greek yogurt with fruit. You’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth, and the protein will help you avoid a mid-morning energy crash. Try adding in a new food swap each week.
The consensus on my Google searches seems to agree with Ann. It’s widely believed that, in times of stress, “comfort foods” will often make you feel better, at least for a short period of time. These foods are usually the carb-type, of which Ann mentioned to be mindful because of their high sugar and/or starch contents. I know, from personal experience, they can negatively affect blood-sugar levels.
Granted, they provide at least a temporary nostalgic or even sentimental value to our mood – but at what cost? They have very little nutritional value if any at all. Junk foods and fast foods are also considered to be “comfort foods”. This would be a good point at which to remind everyone that Mom was the pioneer who first took the junk out of junk food by imitating our favorites at home, where we can control the ingredients!
In fact, one can say with some certainty that not all fast food is junk food AND not all junk food is fast food! By general definition, “junk foods” are considered to be those foods that are heavily processed; typically containing high amounts of either trans fats, sugar, corn syrup, fructose, or salt (or a combination of any of those). Additionally, junk foods are high in calories. Beware – they are also high in luscious, tasty delightfulness and can be addictive!
Science has shown, time and time again, that emotions and food are very much linked together in many ways! Food is often the guest of honor at almost any event! As with eating for self-satisfaction, cooking is also a great source for happiness – whether it be for self-satisfaction or in pleasing others. Between the cooking AND the eating, I figured that I get to happily enjoy food twice as much! Although too much of a good thing is not always a good thing!
According to TimeAndDate.com: “Studies have shown that consuming junk food ONCE-IN-A-WHILE does not have a negative effect on health – it is only when one eats junk food for a majority of their meals that their diet can be considered unhealthy. Consuming large amounts of foods considered to be “junk”, can lead to several health problems, including a high risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart issues.”
Mom was a big believer in the psychological influences of food. Some foods are considered “happy foods” as they contain something called tryptophan, which is transformed into serotonin in the body. Additionally, serotonin is well-known to relax most of us, improve mood and, in general, produce feelings of happiness. Dark Chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting compounds.
Unfortunately, just when we start feeling comfortable and happy about how life is going, we find that happiness doesn’t happen without intermissions. These are the times in which we should take stock of our lives and be grateful for the good, as well as the lessons. From time to time, we forget that nothing in life is guaranteed to any of us.
I read a really great article at EliteDaily.com, which I refer to from time-to-time, called ‘When It Seems Like Things Are Falling Apart, They’re Really Just Falling Into Place’, by Paul Hudson (Sep. 23, 2014). The timeless advice and reasoning in this almost-7-year-old article, regarding how to deal with stress and create your own happiness, sounds like it could’ve been written for these days and the pandemic situation. I highly recommend the read!
Many of us find happiness in food! Writing and cooking were among Mom’s top stress-relievers that made her happy. Being the Secret Recipes Detective for 40 years, Mom was more apt to be found in the kitchen, creating a new imitation of another popular restaurant dish or at her desk writing about the latest imitation she developed.
Mom loved to write about a lot of different things that she thought would interest her readers. She’d been calling it “Food For Thought” since the 1960s, when she wrote for various newspapers. She always liked to say that she made a living with her writing, but it was her writing that made living worthwhile. It gave her purpose and especially happiness!
‘Start now! Good thoughts and good feelings reinforce each other…When you hold on to one good thought, the better you’ll do things that make you feel good about yourself…Nothing will work for you unless you work for it.’ – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.32)]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Reliable Recipes For Reluctant Cooks (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1983, p.6)
COOKING IS MORE THAN TURNING ON THE STOVE – IT’S PLEASING PEOPLE!
As often as we put things off, in life, it’s a shame that we don’t care more about the ‘now’, the ‘todays’, the here-I-am and here-you-are, and what can we do for each other to make things as good as possible for [both of] us! I know! There are people who can’t be bothered with such nonsense. They have jobs to work and bills to pay, things to worry about and goals to achieve.
‘If you’re going to talk about cooking and foods… what are you going off on tangents for, talking about people and their feelings?’
This is a question I’ve been asked over and over by inquiring reporters, wanting to know why we’re successful at what we do, why people go to such trouble to locate us and order our books! I think they answer their own question. Don’t you?
After all, cooking is not for robots! The way we present our food to those who share our table with us takes into account more than plopping the pot roast onto a platter and announcing, ‘Supper’s ready!’ Is that where it ends? When a meal is presented, there are many considerations for the cook.
Besides the balance, nutritionally, there’s the effort to please those who will hopefully enjoy the food. And trying to please those you’re feeding is a direct appeal, a definite effort, to consider someone’s feelings, the feelings of enjoyment and consequently of approval – approval of the food and… the one who prepared it.
Every day, the homemaker, with a family to feed, meets the challenge of proving they can be proficient, both, in the selections of foods, [as well as] the preparation and presentation of it and the management and the management of the cost.
Cooking is more than turning on the stove and opening the refrigerator. It’s pleasing people! It’s caring about what they might like to eat. It’s doing your best to prepare and present the dishes so that mealtime is not just a daily routine – but an occasion.
The cookbook industry has offended us… as if the recipes were designed for mindless bodies – not for folks with feelings! Food fanatics continue to advise us on how to feed the body while we let the famished affections go hungry.
The critics’ smoking guns right now are aimed at curing physical maladies with food administered medicinally. Food, as medication, is used as both a preservative and a cure. But what heals the broken spirit – the sensitive, the distressed, the lonely, the shy and withdrawn?
It takes more than adequate fiber intake; minimum daily nutritional needs being filled to cure the body of ills created by stress and anguish. It takes loving, caring and being loved and cared about in return!
Furthermore, while we’re on the subjects of happiness and the emotional effects of food, I also want to write a little bit about this also being National Sandwich Month. Sandwiches are super choices, whether for a meal or snack – especially in the summertime! They’re so versatile – from the bread to the fillings, even whether it’s served hot or cold or either way!
‘Having a goal gives us hope and it’s hope that keeps us going, enabling us each to meet whatever the world dishes out.’ – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.24)]
Mom penned her prayers, feelings, memories and hopes in journal-after-journal. She often wrote about finding happiness in every day we’re given on Earth. Mom truly believed that – good and bad, alike – everyday had some form of a blessing within it. That’s how Mom was raised, to be grateful everyday – not just for the joyful moments, but also for what she confronted and overcame or from which she learned.
My mom believed that life’s best lessons and experiences came out of life’s biggest disappointments, teaching us how to turn a “let-down” into a “set-up” for something else – maybe even something better – something out there, through the window that opened when the door was closed.
Mom also believed that every new day is a turning point and that each experience (again, good and bad, alike) eventually contributes in some way to our growth and happiness. She called it Mixed Blessings (which became the title of one of her books in 1984) and for those things she was always grateful.
In honor of National Sandwich Month and TODAY, being National Cuban Sandwich Day, which is a Florida-based variation of a ham and cheese sandwich; here is Mom’s imitation of a Monte Cristo – Toronto-Style, as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 185) [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Some of this month’s observances include: National Dog Month, Family Fun Month, Get Ready For Kindergarten Month, International Peace Month, National Back to School Month, National Brownies at Brunch Month, National Catfish Month, National Crayon Collection Month, National Goat Cheese Month, National Golf Month, National Immunization Awareness Month , National Panini Month, National Water Quality Month, National Wellness Month, and Romance Awareness Month!
Other celebrations happening this week include:
Tomorrow, August 24th is… National Maryland Day, National Peach Pie Day, and National Waffle Day! In honor of the latter, here’s another re-share of Mom’s Waffle House imitation… [NOTE: National Waffle Week is coming soon too!]
…34 down and 18 to go!