The HAPPY Diet

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

If the Standard American Diet, deplete of micronutrients and packed with overly processed fats, sugars and salt is SAD which diet is HAPPY? How about, Healthy And Primarily Plant-based, Yes! (Runner up was healthy and primarily plant-based (just for) you.

The connection between food and mood is a hot topic in the media and research. Science is uncovering how what we eat influences our mood and how our mood can sway our food choices. Did you know that we have more serotonin receptors in our gut than we do in our brain? Serotonin is one of our mood regulating hormones and many experts feel that our complex intestinal system is our “second brain.”

Here is a quick overview of some interesting new information about how our happiness and eating intertwine.

  • Certain smells can elicit happiness
  • Your perception of the health value of a specific food or meal can influence your mood and body image
  • Low blood levels of Vitamin D have been linked to depression, fatigue and poor mood. Vitamin D supplementation can help improve depression in teens who have deficient levels.
  • Many nutrients found in plant foods are linked to mood regulation including
  • Omega-3 fats found in mint, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax
  • Magnesium and folate found in dark green leafy veggies like kale, spinach, mustard greens
  • B vitamins found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds
  • Combining healthy proteins with whole grain carbohydrates can help regulate serotonin in the brain.

Does eating nutritious foods make us happy or does being happy help us make better lifestyle choices? I recently saw the exhibit, What the World Eats, and had the pleasure of listening to and meeting photo journalist/reporter husband/wife team, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. They traveled the world capturing photos of families and the foods they eat. They also report the amount of calories each person or family consumes per day. They shared many words of wisdom about diets and health but summed it up as: plants, moderation, and mindful eating.

This is my favorite picture from the exhibit. Not because of the wide array of unprocessed plant foods this family from Ecuador displays, although that’s really awesome. What struck me most are their radiant smiles that transmit authentic happiness even while sitting in a dark, cave-like room and considering the amount of back-breaking work it takes to cultivate and process these raw ingredients.

Which foods or juices make you most happy? How has doing a Reboot or eating and drinking more vegetables affected your mood?

Sending lots of smiles,

Photo – Dillon eating blueberries

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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