You know that old saying, when you look good, you feel good?
And, according to the most recent World Happiness Report, the top three happiest countries in the world -- Iceland, Norway, and Denmark -- are all living proof of this concept.
Among the many factors impacting the quality of life for people living in these countries, mental health was accounted for -- and, as Juno DeMelo explained in How to Eat Like the Happiest People In The World, it was directly linked to diet.
As cliché as it may sound, your body really is your temple -- not a waste disposal.
And that temple deserves to be nourished with whole foods like fresh produce, rather than the processed alternatives that, while they may be convenient to grab on the go, can be detrimental to your body.
Bethany Kassar, MSW, LCSW, executive director of outpatient services at Summit Behavior Health, tells Elite Daily that eating a diet of predominantly (if not entirely) whole foods can have “a positive effect on one's body and body image due to its naturalness.”
If you take the time to actually read the ingredients compacted into processed meats and other common foods, sifting through the excess to get to the heart of its nutritious properties can be a huge challenge.
But when it comes to foods made with limited, whole ingredients that, as Kassar explains, offer “more nutrients, good fats, fiber, whole grains, and natural sweetness," there are no challenges or mysteries behind what you're putting in your body.
Consuming a diet where one eats more natural foods helps with energy, metabolism, and an overall feeling of wellness. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on all aspects of one's life.
Here are a few ways you, too, can eat like the happiest people in the world.
1. Consume Less Animal Meat
Up until a few months ago, I was all about animal protein: grilled chicken, cheeseburgers, bacon, you name it, I ate it.
Soon enough, though, my body was begging for mercy, as meat can be extremely hard on the digestive system.
According to George Mateljan, author of The World's Healthiest Foods, meat -- which is essentially just protein-dense animal muscle -- “requires better chewing, more acid secretion by the stomach's parietal cells, and more active enzyme secretion by the pancreas.”
That's a lot of work for just one meal, if you ask me.
Luckily, plant protein is both plentiful and so much easier to digest.
Load up on leafy green salads for lunch or dinner as an excellent alternative to your usual 99-cent hamburger.
2. Swap Processed Sweets For Natural Sugars
There's a reason an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Listen, I have a sweet tooth the size of this planet, but processed sweets like cookies, cakes, and candy have a lot more going on across their ingredient lists, none of which are any good for the body.
Fruits are mother nature's sweet spot, and I can't even explain to you how good I feel after indulging in a bowl of cantaloupe or pineapple as opposed to a box of Twinkies.
When you regularly implement fruits into your diet, your energy levels spike almost instantaneously, allowing you to be productive AF throughout the day, and feel good while doing so.
3. Listen to Your Mother And Eat Your Vegetables
Hidden away in the confines of carrots, in addition to a slew of other vegetables (and some fruits), exists levels of a pigment known as carotenoids, which have been linked to increased levels of optimism.
Plus, eating foods rich in vitamin B12, like your hearty vegetables, can boost the production of serotonin in the brain, which helps you regulate your moods.
Fun fact: When I was 2 years old, the bottoms of my feet turned orange as a direct result of eating a ton of carrots and sweet potatoes.
And you know what? Now that I think about it, I totally was a happy-go-lucky kid.
But truly, the best part of adding fruits and vegetables to your daily meals is that you don't have to wait years and years to see the positive results of those changes in your diet.
Andrew Oswald, a professor at the University of Warwick, explained to Thrillist that, while " motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later," changes in one's mental state are "closer to immediate” when up to eight servings of fruits and vegetables are consumed each day.
Not only can an extra serving or two (or a few) of fruits and vegetables sustain your physical health, they can also have a positive effect on your day-to-day mood.
So make like an Icelander (or a Norweigan, or a Dane), and eat yourself happy. You and your body deserve it.