The link between mood and food.

Did you know that food impacts your state of mind? Food cravings are often the result of changes to mood, rather than a symptom of being hungry. It works the other way as well. The food we eat can affect our mood.

How Does Food Impact Your Mood?

It has become widely accepted that the gut is like a second brain, both of which are created from the same tissue during foetal development. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem down to the abdomen. Many people can identify when emotions are affecting what’s going on in their tummy; for example, ‘butterflies’ when anxious, or a ‘gut-wrenching’ feeling on hearing bad news. This is the brain affecting the gut.

The gut also has the ability to send signals in the opposite direction. Anxiety and depression can also be product of a malfunctioning or unhealthy digestive system.

Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore paramount when trying to address your mental state. Unfortunately, this can be difficult with the Western diet. Too few fresh foods, coupled with a high sugar, high fat, processed food diet causes inflammation in the gut, poor digestion and creates other health issues, including those that affect the brain. It’s well known that artificial colours, sweeteners and preservatives have been documented as the cause of emotional and behavioural problems, particularly in children.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are lots of foods that are good for your brain and the rest of the body!

1. Dark Chocolate

For all those chocaholics out there; rejoice! There is evidence that proves chocolate has a positive affect on mood. Dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa only) contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter involved in of feelings of motivation and pleasure. The flavonoids in chocolate have been shown to be protective against cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance.

2. Protein

A high-quality source of protein – like organic eggs, or some almonds or walnuts – helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady for enhanced energy and mood.

3. Bananas

Bananas  contain dopamine, a natural reward chemical that boosts your mood. They’re also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6, which nourish the nervous system, and magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive mood and relaxation.

4. Coffee

Coffee appears to affect a number of neurotransmitters related to mood control, so drinking a morning cup could have an effect on your general sense of wellbeing. A 2011 study found a decreased risk of depression for women who drank 2-3 cups of coffee day.[1]

5. Turmeric (Curcumin)

 There are numerous studies proving that Curcumin is useful for neuroprotection, and may also show promise in treating mood disorders.[2]

6. Dark coloured fruit and vegetables.

Anthocyanins are the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function and your mood.

7. Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

EPA and DHA play a role in your emotional well-being, and a 2011 study using medical students found that supplementation reduced pre-exam anxiety by up to 20%. Other studies have shown similar results.[3]

As research continues to prove the strong link between the gut and brain, it is more important than ever to make the right food choices to lift your mood and keep the brain healthy. Eating a diet high in fresh foods and healthy fats is a great way to ensure the best of health both now and for the future.

Source: Dr Mercola – Can Food Impact Your Mood? January 2nd, 2014

[1] Brauser, D. Coffee Make Keep Depression Away. Medscape. September 26, 2011.

[2] Gazal. M et al. Neuroprotective and antioxidant effects of curcumin in a ketamine-induced model of mania in rats.

[3] Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Control Trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8)