Eat Veggies, Not Your Emotions

Nourish


The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. The MIND diet is full of fresh fruits and veggies and is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.

Even though it’s called a “diet,” the MIND diet isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle of healthy eating. It includes 10 brain healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables, vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. It also contains 5 unhealthy food groups: red meats, butter, stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried/fast food.

So what does the MIND diet have to do with eating your emotions?

It’s not uncommon for people to treat themselves to a meal or special dessert when celebrating a birthday, buying a home, or getting a promotion. Treating yourself is okay when it’s a sporadic occurrence. Plus, it’s great to celebrate with family and friends since social interaction also boosts cognitive health.

Yet, it can also be easy to turn to food when you are having strong feelings, whether they are happiness, sadness, or somewhere in between. A study published in the journal Eating Behaviors found a correlation between emotional eating and weight. People who were overweight were more likely to eat for comfort when experiencing negative emotions. People who were not overweight were more likely to indulge when happy or celebrating.

So what’s the connection?

What do you like to eat when you’re feeling sad or lonely? For most people, the answer is carbs and fats: ice cream, pizza, pasta, a whole roll of cookie dough. Carbs actually boost serotonin, the chemical in our brains responsible for happiness. So it totally makes sense to crave carbs when you’re feeling down. Unfortunately, these foods are in the negative group on the MIND diet and can lead to weight gain.

It might feel counterintuitive, but next time you’re feeling down, stay out of the kitchen and head out of the house. Walking for 30 minutes in the sun will increase both your vitamin D and serotonin production—two chemicals with mood-boosting properties!

If you feel like you’ve been curbing your indulgent eating lately, you can retake the Nutrition Assessment. Your score may have improved since the last time!

References

  • Geliebter, A., & Aversa, A. (2003). Emotional eating in overweight, normal weight, and underweight individuals. Eating Behaviors, 3(4), 341–347. doi: 10.1016/s1471-0153(02)00100-9
  • Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimers disease. Alzheimers & Dementia, 11(9), 1007–1014. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.11.009
  • Morris, M. C. (2016). Nutrition and risk of dementia: overview and methodological issues. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1367(1), 31–37. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13047