We’ve all felt the mood-boost when we bite into our favourite food and tuck into tasty treats. Food is about bringing us joy too, after all! But the way food can influence your mood goes much deeper than simply tantalising those taste buds.
The latest science shows the food we eat could be having a major impact on our mood from the inside out.
So how exactly can our meals influence our mood?
Enjoying lots of different foods, packed with plenty of nutrients needed to keep our bodies running well, is super important for our energy and feeling good.
But the deeper connection between what we eat and how we feel is all down to the gut-brain axis – the two-way communication between our brain and our tummy, which helps to explain how our tummies can influence our mental wellbeing and emotions.
You can read more about that here).
And there are 3 main mood-related areas linked to our tummies that you need to know about:
1. The ‘happy’ hormone: serotonin
Serotonin is essentially a chemical that acts as a messenger in our bodies, which helps to balance our mood, making us feel more focused, happier and calmer. It’s mostly made in our gut by billions of bacteria when we eat a certain type of protein (amino acid) called tryptophan.
But if the trillions of microbes living in our tummies are out of balance, they don’t produce as much serotonin as we’d like. Instead, they produce other chemicals that trigger inflammation and this might affect our mood.
Prebiotics are mostly types of fibre found in lots of different vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, beans, nuts and seeds. When we eat prebiotics, we’re nourishing the trillions of microbes in our tummies and increasing the ‘good’ bacteria that keep us healthy.
In turn, those well-fed microbes create chemicals that can help reduce inflammation and signal to the brain that they’re happy – so we can feel their happiness too.
Tummy fact: red, orange, yellow, blue and purple foods get their colour from compounds called polyphenols – these are also prebiotics (that’s why you should eat the plant rainbow)!
Probiotics are live microbes (usually bacteria or yeast) with benefits to our health – and, as it turns out, our happiness too!
Not all probiotics are made equal, but some promising probiotics could even help to battle mental health issues, like depression and anxiety.
How? Some special strains (from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
families) have been linked to reducing certain chemicals known to play a role in brain inflammation and disorders.