Happiness Tip: Skip Your Morning Donut

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I’m a big fan of high-fat foods; fat tastes good, after all. And research has shown that some types of fats, like Omega-3s, can calm us and even have antidepressant effects. But other studies show that trans-fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, may make us feel aggressive, and that they can trigger inflammatory reactions that are linked to depression, heart disease and cancer.

Trans-fats are typically found in processed foods–particularly fried foods and packaged baked goods. Since aggression, depression, heart disease and cancer are not happiness habits, clearly what we eat affects our happiness.

Take Action: This week, make an effort to eat something high in a fat that is likely to make you feel good, such as something high in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. DHA is found in oily fish, like trout and salmon. (If you are vegetarian, algae is the only DHA-rich vegetable source that I’m aware of.) Let that yummy smoked trout salad replace your side of french fries, chips, or (sigh) those cookies that came in a package.

Join the Discussion: Do you think trans-fat foods make you aggressive or depressed? Leave a comment below.

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  • Tricia

    If one’s immediate mood is not adversely affected by this poor nutrition choice, then the extra pounds around the waist will certainly be a bummer! AdvoCare2Thrive.com

  • Denise Flora

    I have been eating Nutritarian mostly for about 9 months. That means I expect a lot from my food. Walnuts on my cereal (oatmeal) give me my Omegs 3′s at breakfast. Eating refined sugar definitely makes me want to eat more than usual when it wears off. I might be able to afford the calories, but not the rebound calories that I get trying to satisfy that strong grasping it causes after the fact. Also, as I understand it, the sugar is a contributing factor to a blood ph that takes calcium from your bones. Seems we’re all trying to get more calcium, especially as we get older, but (just like money) its not how much calcium you get, its how much you keep. So better for me to keep sugar to a minimum.

  • Liberty

    Another vegetarian source is Chia seeds. They work wonders on filling you up with healthy fat, good fiber and tons of protein. In a smoothie they are Delish, yummy on a salad or add to a healthy cookie recipe- there’s one on my blog.

    Love you tips and blog-Many blessings!

    http://www.16ballsintheair.com

    • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

      That breakfast cookie recipe is brilliant! Hard to find healthy things to compete with not-so-healthy cereal, which leaves me (and my children, especially) starving in an hour.

  • http://twitter.com/davidlaplante David LaPlante

    Perhaps the best benefit of eating healthy fats in the morning is that it curbs your hunger, which is especially helpful if you are trying to reduce your carbs or are aiming for maintaining a low-carb diet. It also helps crush your sugar cravings if you’re trying to kick the sugar habit. Butter (KerryGold or other grass-fed) for breakfast! I eat ~400 calories from butter every day for breakfast along with 2tbsp of MCT oil. Fats don’t make you fat, unless they’re oxidized – so be careful to not overheat/over-cook.

    • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

      What is MCT oil? (And for those of you who’ve never met David, I can vouch for the fact that he’s happy, energetic, and physically fit. Clearly fats are not making him fat.)

      • http://twitter.com/davidlaplante David LaPlante

        Thanks Christine – you’re such a sweetheart. It’s all relative. Compared to my kids I’m lazy and worthless ;-)

        So – Mct oil. Quoting from Wikipedia ’cause I’m too lazy to type it:

        Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are medium-chain (6 to 12 carbons) fatty acid esters of glycerol.MCTs passively diffuse from the GI tract to the portal system (longer fatty acids are absorbed into the lymphatic system) without requirement for modification like long-chain fatty acids or very-long-chain fatty acids. In addition, MCTs do not require bile salts for digestion. Patients that have malnutrition or malabsorption syndromes are treated with MCTs because they do not require energy for absorption, utilization, or storage. Coconut oil is composed of approximately 66% medium-chain triglycerides.
        I think of it like a campire which is your metabolism for energy. Dump newspaper (sugar) and it burns hot and fast and can “crash” the fire. Throw on pine (easy carbs like rice / bread) and it is almost immediately available and has more of the traits of paper – burns fast and can crash the fire. MCT is like good dense oak. Available like pine but burns long like coal. Coal is like long-chain but is takes energy to get it to burn.It’s not a great analogy. LOL! Suffice it to say that MCT is like the true “energy drink” – but without the glucose swings of sugar and bypassing the need for your body to run it through the liver factory to be available like long chain fats.Look for MCT that is high in C8/C10…usually referred to as “pharmaceutical grade”. C12 is not as available. It’s odorless, tasteless, and colorless. Makes for great salad dressing. Brushing it on sushi is awesome!!! Helps balance/neutralize the rice bump.

  • Cara Owens

    Such a great topic. I am a recovering sugar addict (LOL), and I definitely feel when I eat sugar–especially sugar combined with bad fat–ice cream, donuts, etc. If you were to call my husband and tell him that I just ate some cake and ice cream, he would, with terror in his voice, have you tell me not to come home for a few hours.

    • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

      LOL. This happens to me on weekend mornings when I make pancakes with the kids–the syrup gets me every time.

  • Solstice

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but flaxseed oil has almost twice (~12000mg) the Omega -3 as salmon which has about 8000mg. Salmon is right on par with Chai seeds (around 7000mg) next runners up include sprouted radish seeds, butter nuts, walnuts, basil, oragano, cloves, chinese broccoli, grapeleaves, spearmint, and spinich – all above 2000mg.
    kiwifruit, pecans, and hazel nuts, rasberries, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and lingonberries also have high levels…among many others….
    Thats an aweful lot to overlook.
    I think you’re safe vegetarians !

    • http://twitter.com/davidlaplante David LaPlante

      That’s true, however Omega-3 from flax is ALA and is not nearly as bioavailable as it is from from wild-caught fish, farm eggs, or grass-fed beef. It’s the EPA and DHA that you’re after. And with Flax you get a lot of Omega-6 which should be avoided. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids use the same enzymes for transport. If Omega-6 fats exceed Omega-3, the body will produce large amounts of inflammatory compounds and few enzymes are available for the Omega-3 fats to create anti-inflammatory compounds. High levels of Omega-6 fatty acids can actually negate the digestion/use of Omega-3 fats. Also the only form of flax ingestion that delivers ALA effectively is flax seed oil – which for many can cause digestion issues. Worse, it oxidizes almost immediately which, again, is highly inflammatory. So, yeah, not a big fan of flax.

      • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

        Wow. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I was vegetarian and then vegan for quite some time, out of compassion for animals mostly. I got really sick; I just couldn’t meet my protein demand (apparently I have some gene that makes it hard for me to source protein from legumes) and I felt tired and terrible. Now that I’m eating meat & sustainably caught fish again (nothing from a factory farm) I feel a ton better. Amazing how food affects your mood! Obvious, but still strikes me.

        • http://twitter.com/davidlaplante David LaPlante

          I hear this a lot. I’ve jokingly referred to it as the “Tahoe effect” with having witnessed over the years a lot of vegans who move to Tahoe and start having a high energy life and start falling apart at the seams – mostly due to the inflammation. And the not-so-knee-jerk reaction is that it’s gluten intolerance. That surely contributes. But soy is an inflammatory in often equal proportions. I’m not passing judgement on being vegan/vegetarian, you just have to really pay acute attention to what you’e eating and what it’s doing to your body. (Ethics debate aside.) That gene you have – well most of us have it. Raw soy is poison. It has to be wet heat cooked to make it digestible for mammals (humans too). Humans eating significant amounts of soy is a relatively new phenomenon in the time scale. While consumption does date way way back – it was all fermented soy that was consumed. Big difference. We certainly didn’t evolve eating soy as a staple. It’s true value was for its legume nitrogen fixing and they figured out how to ferment it and use it in the crop rotation. Worse, soy as we know it today is purely a cultivated (and for the most part) a GMO crop. Even “organic” soy is unavoidably cultivated/modified to what it is today. There’s no such thing as a natural soy. I don’t think they can even identify soy’s original natural parents.

          So getting back to my hunch – you’re “sickness” was perhaps less of the protein availability and the overall collateral inflammation from wheat, soy, and oxidized oils. Unless you’re careful it can be the dietary equivalent of the inflammation from running a marathon every week.

          One of my friends is a world renowned pregnancy doctor. Celebrities and upscale folks from all over the world come to him to try and figure out how to get pregnant. His easiest and most consistently successful prescription is to get them off the inflammatory foods and eating healthy fats high in healthy cholesterol and nutrient dense proteins. He reasons that a body will naturally reject getting pregnant if it doesn’t have the right amount of “raw materials” to build a baby. The research around Alzheimers and Autism with regards to ketones, cholesterols, and healthy fats are just starting to gush out. Hit pub med for those.

          Again – not passing judgement! Just saying that you should really pay attention to your own blood results (C reactive protein especially), glucose, HDL/LDL, ketones, and overall energy/mood to tell you what the right foods are for you.

          Personally I can get away with wheat and do not get as much inflammation as most folks. Soy, however, crushes me.

          Ethics/morals/compassion aside…the best thing is to analyze the data from your own body and tweak it to an optimal health.

          One side note: if you really look at the collateral damage of what industrialized farming does to produce wheat/corn/soy/beans – all the critters/habitats/tillage killage – being a vegan/vegetarian is in no way a bloodless pursuit and healthy for the environment. Industrialized animal raising is no better…and in pretty much every way certainly no worse. Local, organic, sustainable is best for health and environment. Vegan or not.

    • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

      The mood study tested DHA specifically, not Omega-3s. I don’t know much about sources, so suggestions are helpful.

  • Sarah Beasley

    I have been attempting a Whole 30 (http://whole9life.com) which really stresses eating fat! I have found that by eliminating processed foods like baked goods and SUGAR my mood has dramatically improved. I am not diabetic, but I do battle blood sugar spikes, and as a result- mood swings (I’ve dubbed the hungry/angry mood swings “hangry”). Eliminating things like donuts has kept my blood sugar at a more normal and consistent level throughout the day (and I even lost a few pounds- which is well worth the sacrifice in my book). My diet is definitely not low in fat (sorry bran muffins) and it definitely has improved my mood and overall happiness.

    • Cara Owens

      Love “hangry!” Great term

    • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

      I’m with you. When I skip the fats in my diet, I get hangry fast, too. (Funny term. I’m going to use it with my daughter who is easily hangered. Hah!)

  • Amanda

    I’m a vegan, and there are some foods you can get now that are fortified with algae-derived DHA, like spaghetti sauce and soy milk… so if there are any other vegans or vegetarians reading (or people who don’t want to eat fish), you can also do that.

    • http://www.raisinghappiness.com Dr. Christine Carter

      That’s a great tip. What soy milk brand is fortified with DHA?