The Biggest Piece of Advice 3 Influential Foodies Say Is Most Important for Health

Candice Kumai, Ali Maffucci, Alexia Brue, and Tanya Zuckerbrot Photo: Michael Priest Photography
What happens when you get a bunch of influential food entrepreneurs together to talk about their recipe for true wellness? They don't talk about greens, or adaptogens, or even probiotics. Even for foodies, turns out, it's all about mindset.

"Happiness goes so much further than we think it does," said Ali Maffucci, the founder of Inspiralized (AKA the woman you can thank for zoodles), in front of a sold-out crowd of 600 people at the 92nd Street Y in New York City for a panel as part of their XYZ series, led by Well+Good CEO and co-founder Alexia Brue. The panel also included Well+Good Wellness Council member, chef, and author Candice Kumai and dietitian and F-Factor diet creator Tanya Zuckerbrot.

Prioritizing happiness was a theme that came up with all of the panelists—and they emphasized that this wasn't just fluff or something that sounded nice to say. There's a wealth of science behind how happiness affects health, they said, and it also affects your food habits.

"My grandma didn't care about charcoal lemonade." —Candice Kumai

"People underestimate how happiness can make your skin glow," Maffucci said. It's part of her personal food philosophy of following the 80/20 diet (eating healthy for 80 percent of the time and more freely 20 percent of the time). "I live in moderation and balance, keeping my pantry and fridge stocked with nutritious foods so it's easy for me to eat healthy at home—even when I'm short on time—so when I go out with my friends, I can just have what I want." What's more enjoyable than that?

Kumai said it's simple pleasures like eating with loved ones and eating healthy foods you love that are one of the keys to not getting too consumed by trends. "My grandma didn't care about charcoal lemonade," she said, nodding to the fact that her Japanese heritage is linked to a long, healthy lifespan. "She ate simple foods like fermented pickles and sea veggies and also liked spending time with people she loved."

Zuckerbrot pointed out a science-backed happiness-weight loss connection. "Stress raises cortisol levels, but happiness lowers stress and lowers cortisol levels," she said. "And high cortisol levels are linked to all sorts of terrible things like weight gain, fatigue, and high blood sugar."

But the panelists didn't just talk about the health benefits of happiness, they offered up tips on how to cultivate it, too. "Purge your social media," Maffucci said. "Stop following people who don't inspire you, who you compare yourself to, or you're hate-following. It will shift your entire mood." Kumai spoke about the idea of wabi sabi, the Japanese practice of accepting and finding beauty in imperfection. "Also, don't wait around. Don't let others make decisions for you. This is your life," she said.

And Zuckerbrot's tip: If you want to have a few glasses of wine with your friends—do it. "Drinking wine or [low-sugar spirits] doesn't get in the way of weight loss," she said. "A glass of wine has less calories than a dinner roll." Her one caveat: If, for you, drinking alcohol leads to poor food choices, that's where being more mindful comes in. "Having drinks with friends, for many, is part of a happy life," she said. "So cheers!"

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