How food affects your mood

When we’re feeling sad, stressed or tired, our natural response is to reach for sweet treats or simple carbs to feel better. But what does this really do to our mood and energy levels?

Having a diet that provides regular amounts of good quality carbohydrates to keep blood glucose levels stable and avoid spikes is important. Carbohydrates include a wide range of foods which are digested into sugar (glucose). These provide energy for the body, which may be why you want to reach for them when feeling tired.
When it comes down to it, overall diet quality is the key, rather than pin-pointing individual nutrients. However, there are several nutrients of interest when it comes to brain health and mood.

B vitamins
B vitamins, such as those found in whole grains, vegetables and lean meats, are involved in neuronal function and many processes in our brains. Pineapples are high in manganese and are a good source of vitamin B, C and folate. They have been positively linked to brain health.

This is a healthy fat often linked with good mood and brain health. It’s found in foods like extra virgin olive oil, oily fish and some nuts. Research suggests that omega-3 may help reduce the symptoms of depression, as it may make it easier for serotonin (the happy hormone) to pass through our brain and get to the cells associated with creating happy feelings.

Selenium, found in Brazil nuts, meat, fish, seeds and wholemeal bread, can boost our levels of serotonin, and help elevate a low mood.

Serotonin is made with an essential amino acid from the diet called tryptophan. This can be found in foods like tofu, cottage cheese, eggs, chicken, salmon, red meat, chickpeas, almonds and peanuts.

Resistant starch
Resistant starch is a type of fibre that ‘resists digestion’ and becomes available as food for our good gut bacteria. The bacteria turn it into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are the main source of energy for the cells lining our colon. SCFAs help to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall and give us energy to feel good. Good food sources of resistant starch include green bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes, rice and pasta, legumes and oats. The cooking and cooling of starches makes the starch crystals become more resistant to digestion, nourishing the good bacteria.

Feeling good and energised in the long term will come from having a well-balanced diet. Eating healthy, whole foods like fruit, veggies, wholegrains, lean meat, seafood, and dairy means we’re more likely to meet our needs for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which impacts our gut and brain health. And ultimately our mood.

Source: This is an edited extract from ‘How food affects your mood’ available from AFA Care and Benestar,