How does food af­fect our mood?

Central Otago Mirror - - BUILDING - Q: I’m par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in how our gut health and diet in­flu­ence our mood. I know that many peo­ple don’t be­lieve it has an im­pact, but I cer­tainly no­tice a change in my mood when I’m not eat­ing well, re­ly­ing on take­aways or con­sum­ing more pro­cessed

For many years the link be­tween mood and nu­tri­tion has been de­bated. From the com­mon­sense cor­ner we have al­ways known the food we eat af­fects us – you only have to re­call a child’s birth­day party to see just how pow­er­fully the food we eat can im­pact our mood and be­hav­iour. What we eat lit­er­ally be­comes part of us, the amino acids we in­gest help to form the pro­teins that be­come part of our im­mune sys­tem, our mus­cles and so on.

How­ever, many of us have be­come dis­con­nected from this re­la­tion­ship – we can be left think­ing it’s ‘‘nor­mal’’ to feel ter­ri­ble at 3pm, snap be­fore lunch or to con­stantly feel bloated after eat­ing. Our re­la­tion­ship with food

is com­plex and of­ten has a strong emo­tional com­po­nent – take for ex­am­ple a stress­ful day – many peo­ple might find them­selves drawn to choco­late, al­co­hol, or take­aways not a health-pro­mot­ing bowl of broc­coli.

If we’re feeling tired and slug­gish we tend to reach for caf­feine and sug­ary foods, any­thing that will give us a quick surge of en­ergy. to our brain, yet many neu­ro­trans­mit­ters are ac­tu­ally made in the gut.

Fer­mented foods such as sauer­kraut are rich in acetic acid which can help pro­mote good stom­ach acid pro­duc­tion and hence great di­ges­tion, al­low­ing ben­e­fi­cial mi­crobes to re­side in the large in­tes­tine, thereby en­hanc­ing our mood. You can buy them or make your own.

Dark choco­late is a good source of tryp­to­phan, an amino acid that sup­ports the pro­duc­tion of sero­tonin. Choco­late con­sump­tion also drives the brain to pro­duce an­other chem­i­cal called anan­damide, which has been shown to tem­po­rar­ily block feel­ings of pain and de­pres­sion. Dopamine is also pro­duced when we eat choco­late, and this can have a mood lift­ing ef­fect on many peo­ple. How­ever, for those with al­ready el­e­vated dopamine lev­els, ex­ces­sive amounts of choco­late can lead to ten­sion and ag­gres­sion.

So like with all things re­lated to mood, there is no one size fits all; some find choco­late en­hances their mood, for oth­ers it gives them a headache and/or fires them up.

Bananas, par­tic­u­larly ripe bananas, can help to reg­u­late dopamine – a feel good fac­tor – as they con­tain a high con­cen­tra­tion of ty­ro­sine, an amino acid that helps gen­er­ate dopamine in the brain. Bananas are also rich in B group vi­ta­mins, in­clud­ing vi­ta­min B6, as well as mag­ne­sium, both es­sen­tial for re­lax­ation and a calm ner­vous sys­tem. Other food sources of ty­ro­sine in­clude al­monds, eggs and meats.

MAARTEN HOLL

Dopamine is pro­duced when we eat choco­late, and this can have a mood lift­ing ef­fect on many peo­ple.

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