Gautama Buddha once said that people who ate less meat and more vegetables would “observe the changing of the body and spirit,” pointing to the inexorable link between what we eat and how we feel. Although Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra do not specify one true diet for all yoga practitioners, the latter does espouse the importance of being kind to all sentient things. If you are thinking of embracing veganism or you simply want to include more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, you may find an additional motivation for doing so: these foods can lift our mood and help us feel happier and more positive about life.
Plant-Rich Diets Boost Mental Health
A study conducted at Deakin University in Australia sought to find out what impact a diet that was rich in plant-based foods, could have on happiness. After 12 weeks, volunteers who consumed this type of diet felt significantly happier than groups that did not change their diet. Another study by researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany found that eating veggies led to greater happiness over the long-term, as compared to indulging in fast foods and sugar-rich items. Scientists believe that one important reason for these findings is that vegetables are high in fiber (which can promote gut health).
Plant-Based Comfort Foods
Although scientists have continually espoused the mental health benefits of simple diets like the Mediterranean, Japanese, and Norwegian diets (because of their emphasis on whole foods, fruits, and vegetables), this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite comfort foods. Indeed, sweet treats can give people a ‘lift’ when we are feeling low, which is why so many reach for their favorite tub of ice-cream when they are feeling blue. You don’t need to miss out on the fun of ice-cream when you go vegan, however. Hark back to traditional recipes made with fruit. You can either make your own ice-cream (using a sweetener like stevia and a non-dairy ice base) or buy your favorite vegan ice-cream and indulge once in a while.
Superfoods that Boost Your Mood
In addition to consuming a healthy diet, you can get a little happiness boost from specific superfoods. For instance, if you love walnuts, the good news is that they are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which play an important role in regulating ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain such as dopamine. If you love smoothies, add a dash of spirulina; this food is high in tryptophan, which is also linked to good moods. Dark chocolate, meanwhile, can help reduce stress; too increase its health quotient, go for antioxidant-rich raw chocolate if you can.
If you wish to follow a vegan diet as part of your commitment to yoga, the good news is that you will probably also feel a little happier and healthier. A plant-based diet can help you lose or maintain a healthy weight, and boost your heart health. It can also boost your gut health, increase levels of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, and provide comfort when you need a little push.