How does food affect our mood?
15th August 2019 / Health
How does food affect our mood?
We all know that we must eat to nourish our body, but how much thought do we give to how the food that we eat impacts how we feel? We may all think we know, but we need to think past how we feel when we take the first bite of our favourite food; and think about how the foods that we choose to eat influence the chemicals in our brain. The phase ‘feel good from within’ really couldn’t be more appropriate, and with a growing number of fad diets, it appears that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains isn’t just good for our bodies but our minds too.
Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid, it is the precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is understood that if tryptophan levels in the body are either low or depleted then the levels of the hormone serotonin drop, this is likely to lead to low mood or irritability.
Serotonin: Serotonin is a multifaceted complex neurotransmitter. Thought to be the happy hormone, one of its functions is the promotion of ‘mood boosting’ happiness.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are really important within our diet. They help to ensure that we are getting a wide range of different nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols as well as prebiotic fibre. All of these nutrients are essential for our bodies to function correctly.
Research has identified that people who include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in their diet generally report feelings of positive emotions. In order to get the full benefits from our fruits and veggies, it's important to eat as many different varieties and colours as possible - we need to eat the rainbow!
Protein contains amino acids, which make up a number of different chemicals that the brain requires to help regulate our thoughts and feelings. Poultry and fish contain tryptophan, the precursor for serotonin. There are a number of protein rich foods that contain tryptophan, for example:
Protein rich foods also help us to feel fuller for longer, so we are less likely to become irritable because we are hungry.
It is now understood that over 90% of the serotonin that we produce within our body is produced within the gut, and now our gut is being coined as our ‘second-brain’. So it is important to that we are nourishing our gut bacteria. A well-nourished gut-bacterial composition will help to promote positive mood and feelings.
The idea that there is something within our bodies that is so closely linked and so closely affects the choices and decisions that we make, is still currently being researched. However, it is becoming increasingly clear, that the composition of our gut bacteria may be making sub-conscious food choices for us, that are indeed affecting both our mood and how we feel.
The best way to ensure that we are nourishing the beneficial bacteria in our gut is to include a wide variety of different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good quality dairy products into our diet. You can also consider taking a probiotic like our Symbiotic 7, to further nourish your gut bacteria.
Hydration is really important, dehydration is thought to have a significant impact on mood. One particular study, explored the key role that water has on the maintenance of brain function, our cognitive abilities and mood states are positively influenced by water.
With this in mind, we should aim to keep hydrated throughout the day. Try to ensure that you are drinking water, drinking tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet are okay, but it's best to avoid sugary drinks as not only do they contain high amounts of sugar, but they also contain large amounts of hidden caffeine too.
It is always best to avoid large amounts of caffeine as it is a stimulant, your initial thought when you think of caffeine is always coffee, but caffeine is hidden in places where you may not have even considered. For example, sugary drinks contain nearly as much caffeine as a single cup of coffee, even decaffeinated coffee isn't completely caffeine free so it is important to always check the label. Avoiding caffeine throughout the day is also likely to help improve sleeping patterns, which in turn is likely to have an impact on our mood.
Eating the right fats is another really important factor that may have an impact on our moods, omega-3 and omega-6 are both really important fats that we should include frequently within our diet. One particular study found that the inclusion of omega-3 in the form of fish or in an omega-3 supplement, may have a positive affect on our mental health, boosting our mood. This is thought to be directly as a result of the known benefits that omega-3 and 6 fatty acids have on our brain.
Consuming the right type of fats will help to nourish your body. It is best to avoid saturated fats as these are likely to contribute to weight gain, and they are also likely to make you feel sluggish, which could potentially affect our mood.
White carbohydrates, like white bread, rice and pasta are often associated with feeling less energetic and sluggish, so we should aim to get our cards from whole grain alternatives like brown rice and pasta. Evidence suggests that meals that contain carbohydrates exclusively, have been shown to increase the availability of tryptophan and consequently serotonin. Whole grain carbohydrates, pulses also help to maintain our blood glucose levels.
Glucose is also plays a really important role in the functioning of our brain. It is understood that 20% of the energy that our body harvests through the food that we eat, is used by the brain alone, so consumption of the right kind of carbohydrate is essential.
The food choices that we make do have an impact on our mood and how we feel, so making sensible, intuitive food choices is likely to leave us feeling happy and nourished.
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