How Does Food Affect Mood?
It’s becoming increasingly obvious to scientists and lay people alike that food affects not only bodily functions but our mental and emotional responses. Much has been written about serotonin, a “feel good” hormone which helps regulate moods, food cravings and sleep cycles. Balanced serotonin levels help us feel calm and relaxed. We can’t get actual serotonin from foods but we can increase foods rich in tryptophan, its building block.
Tryptophan can’t be made by the body, so add to the diet foods like organic egg yolks, poultry (especially turkey), bananas, cottage cheese, fish and as wide a variety of seeds as you can, especially sesame seeds (tahini is fabulous as a spread).
Foods rich in B vitamins help us convert tryptophan better so add whole wheat breads, chickpeas and lentils. Best to ferment legumes and look for organic breads made with traditional (heritage) grains.
This is a nutrient which helps improve mood, is found mainly in the skin of red grapes, in blueberries, strawberries, raw peanuts (with skin), peanut butter and raw cacao.
Walnuts, fish oils and plant oils are high in calming and anti-inflammatory Omega 3s and green leafy veggies rich in magnesium, the body’s ‘chill-out’ mineral.
It appears that if there is an imbalance of beneficial gut flora, our moods and cognition suffer. Probiotics have become a hugely popular and increasingly researched field with regards to depression. In a large subgroup analysis comparing patients without depression with those with mild to moderate depression, the improvement was significant in patients who supplemented with probiotics.