How to be more happy by changing your diet

If you were to name three foods which make you happy, the chances are that they would include chocolate, coffee, ice cream, fizzy drinks, cake or other desserts. But in fact, these same foods could be making you unhappy. Stimulants such as sugar and caffeine give you an instant rush of energy that fills your body with endorphins, yet once this rush has worn off, you can find yourself feeling more tired and irritable than you were previously…only now you have a couple of hundred of empty calories knocking around inside you.

Sugar and caffeine are not the only ‘false friends’ when it comes to dieting. Carbohydrates are an important part of our daily nutrition, but eaten to excess they can make us feel sluggish and sleepy, and thereby less active. And then there is salt – a delicious seasoning which is found in everything from ready meals to ice cream (yes, ice cream!). Too much salt can leave you feeling dehydrated, drying out your skin and zapping your energy no matter how much water you glug.

Sugar, caffeine, carbohydrates and salt are consumed by most of us on a very regular basis, but while they are OK in moderation, they are not contributing to our overall happiness.

Over the past decade, we have seen the rise of the ‘superfood’, as people start to realise the lifestyle benefits of better eating. By making a few small changes to your usual diet, you will find that you sleep better, have more energy and feel more happy overall.

Substitute sugar for…fruit!

Refined sugar is easily dissolved in even the smallest amount of liquid, making it perfect for cooking and baking. Unrefined sugar cane is pretty hard to come by in the UK, but fructose, the natural sugars found in fruit, is a great substitute.

Quitting sugar is tough – you may be surprised at how much sugar you consume each day without realising it. But sweet, bitesized pieces of fruit such as strawberries, peaches, figs or dates can give you that instant sugar rush that you crave, without the comedown afterwards. Plus, each piece of fruit you eat contains valuable nutrients such as fibre and vitamins, so you can binge away guilt free.

Substitute caffeine for…herbal tea!

OK, so you would have to drink about a gallon of herbal tea before you equal the amount of caffeine found in one cup of coffee, but your body will quickly get used to its new caffeine intake. Green tea, white tea and rooibos tea are the best options to carry you through the transition from black coffee to peppermint tea – these blends are naturally high in caffeine but come with other health benefits which can help boost your immunity and promote wellbeing in your digestive system. If you find that you are missing the hand-to-mouth action of drinking a hot drink, try increasing your water consumption and give your health that extra little boost.

Substitute carbohydrates for… grains!

White bread, white rice, white pasta and potatoes are staples of the British diet, but they are not doing us much good. White carbohydrates are hard to metabolise, so they stay in your system for longer, making you feel sluggish and bloated, but not quite full.

If you can’t live without your pasta bakes, switch from white pasta to brown pasta. The wholewheat pasta mix is high in fibre and releases energy slowly across a longer period of time, making it easier to digest.

But where possible, try to switch heavy, nutrient-poor carbs for high fibre, high protein grains such as quinoa and polenta. They are cheap, easy to cook, and just as filling as a side of mashed potato.

Substitute salt for…chilli and garlic!

Salt is amazing – it can make the most bland plate of food taste great. But we are putting our health at risk by consuming far too much of it. For a bit of extra bite or kick in your food, scatter a few chilli flakes over your meal instead, or add a finely chopped clove of garlic to whatever you are cooking for dinner. The powerful flavours will take over, opening up your taste buds without damaging your body.

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