By Cynthia Radnitz, Speaker at the 2015 NYC Vegetarian Food Festival
We choose the foods we eat for a variety of reasons: hunger, cravings, nutrition or calorie content, and mood management. Indeed, they have even invented a term for people who eat in response to mood, “emotional eaters.” We all have our comfort foods when anxious or stressed, favorite foods that seems to calm us or make us feel better. But, do certain foods actually have an effect on our mood? Research is accumulating on this topic. In one study, Scherschel et al. (2014) demonstrated that mood did improve after consuming comfort foods, but no more than after consuming other non-comfort foods.
But, aside from eating comfort foods and emotional eating, can what we eat affect our mood? Are there certain foods we can eat that will make us happier? Less anxious? And less stressed? Conversely, are there other foods that can negatively impact mood? What about longer term dietary choices? Just as long-term diet and lifestyle choices impact physical health parameters such as blood cholesterol levels, can long-term diet-lifestyle choices also impact overall mood?
In my talk, Can Foods Make you Happy? Association between a Vegan Diet and Mood, I will review some of the evidence addressing the topic of foods and mood. In addition, I will present new data my colleague Bonnie Beezhold and I collected from vegans, vegetarians and omnivores on both their eating habits and mood levels. Additionally, I will describe data describing mediators of the relationship between diet and mood, notably gender and age. During the presentation, theories for why we obtained our results will be presented including possible mechanisms underlying our main findings. This paper is currently “in press” in the journal, Nutritional Neuroscience.