So, you took your kids out trick-or-treating and now you have a ten-pound bag of candy from their loot, not to mention your own leftovers from the candy you were giving out. When you sit down and take it all in, you realize you have enough sugar in front of you to keep a kid hyper for probably a good 365 days straight. But let’s not overlook a key benefit to all of that Halloween goodness!
Do you pay attention and concentrate on the foods you eat?
When you consume chocolate treats such as Halloween candy, if you are mindful of what you are eating, you can gain a boost in your mood. Someone who pays attention and is aware of what they are eating can get a sense of well-being when compared to people who simply eat something without thinking about it. We all do it for the most part, we consume things without giving it a second thought or really enjoying the food in front of us. But when you slow down and truly pay attention to what you are eating it makes for a much better overall experience.
Researchers looked to better understand how food affects your mind
A study was done to look at the differences between food and eating experiences. The researchers gathered a group of participants and divided them into four separate groups. Each group started and ended the study by completing mood questionnaires. The food they were testing was chocolate as well as crackers—both were around a 75-calorie portion size. The first group of participants were given chocolate and asked to focus and concentrate on what they were eating. The second group was given crackers and asked to focus and concentrate on what they were eating. The third group was told to simply eat the chocolate (no mention of paying attention to what they were eating), and the final group was given crackers and not told to focus on what they were eating.
While eating, the participants were either listening to a 4.5-minute recording of audio that gave the participants instructions on how to eat their food and pay attention to it, or on the opposite side of the spectrum they weren’t instructed at all for the 4.5 minutes. The recording instructed the participant on how they should hold the food, to look at the color of the item, it’s overall appearance, and think about the process it went through in order to get into the form they are looking at in their hand. When they ate the food, the audio instructed them to pay attention to the sensations and feelings the food gave them.
What did the study show?
After the study was completed and the participants were finished eating their chocolate or crackers they were given a follow up mood questionnaire. The researchers looked at the findings and what they noticed was the groups who were instructed to pay attention to the food they were eating and concentrate on certain aspects showed an improvement in mood, more so than the group who simply ate the chocolate and crackers without thinking about it. Then when comparing the groups who ate the chocolate and crackers and were instructed to pay attention, the chocolate group scored an even higher score when compared to the cracker group. Good news for chocolate lovers!
One of the researchers said, “We only used milk chocolate and one amount (75 calories) in our study. We do not know if mindfully eating dark chocolate or a higher amount of milk chocolate changes the effect. Dark chocolate has more of the beneficial ingredients for physical health according to several studies, but we did not examine it here in terms of mood.”
Something else the researchers need to look at is the overall appeal of the food for each individual. If someone enjoys chocolate but hates crackers, how does that translate with the results. Just the opposite if you have someone who doesn’t like candy/chocolate, yet likes crackers, how would the mood questionnaire differ in that instance?
Is this study more of a trick or a treat?
While the study isn’t telling us to all go out and raid our kids Halloween bag, it does raise the question of how much food (such as chocolate in this instance) influences our overall mood if we slow down and pay more attention to what we are consuming and have some enjoyment out of it. Look for the pleasure in what you eat and you can enjoy an enhanced mood—something many people could use these days with the stressful world we live in.
Due to how quickly we consume foods, one would imagine the benefits of enjoying a particular food item would be short-lived and the benefits would only last a short while. A researcher touched on this when he said, “The mood benefits are likely to be short term and impacted by the amount consumed so that consumption of larger amounts would lead to excessive energy intake and associated guilt. Excess energy intake is linked to the occurrence of obesity, which is a risk factor for virtually all chronic diseases. Mindfulness promotes healthier consumption habits by maximizing the enjoyment people receive from their food.”
Another researcher made the comment that, “I’m sure most health experts would suggest to eat candy in moderation and aim for a balanced diet. Our data suggests that people should slow down and savor their Halloween candy because it might allow them to be a bit happier afterwards although we recognize that it may be hard to get children to do so.” In the end, Halloween ends up being a win-win for everyone. Your children got to dress up in a costume, have fun going door to door and at the end of it all, you and the kids get to enjoy some candy, and an improvement in mood—even if only for a short period of time.