We’re constantly told that proper nutrition is good for our energy levels and overall health - a fact that will, by default, affect our mood for the better. But this is a very simple statement for a relationship between ‘food’ and ‘mood’ that is far more complex.
One factor for this intrinsic connection is the way that our gut and our brains are so intertwined. Our gut uses many of the same chemicals as our brains, and our gut microbiome produces molecules that our brain requires. It communicates with the brain via three routes:
- The vagus nerve- a bi-directional route of communication used by certain bacteria.
- The production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA)- bacteria metabolise fibre to produce SCFA- that get into the bloodstream and influence organs including the brain.
- The production of tryptophan- which gives rise to the feel good hormone serotonin in the brain. The brain’s capacity to store tryptophan is limited. It comes from diet and intestinal bacteria.
Due to the connection and communication between the microbiota and our mind, our gut is often referred to as our second brain. Our gut bacteria produces molecules that our brain requires to function and support our mood; therefore if our microbiota is out of balance, this can lead to negative symptoms of anxiety.
Cytokines can travel from the gut immune system to the brain and influence brain activity. The increased production of serotonin and ability of certain bacteria to reduce the stress hormone cortisol can elevate mood and produce an anti-stress effect. This also supports heart health as elevated levels of cortisol is damaging to the cardiovascular system.
What foods should I eat?
While so-called ‘comfort foods’ - such as processed foods - can be enjoyed in moderation, it’s important to feed our gut and our brains with the correct nutrients. Eating a high-sugar or high-salt meal may make us feel good every so often, but turning it into a habit is detrimental to our mental health. It’s also a bad idea to consume too much caffeine as a quick fix for feelings of lethargy, as too much causes increased feelings of anxiety and depression.
This sounds obvious, but it’s also not as basic as eating a plate of just any vegetables. It’s good to combine a variety of proteins, omega-3 fats, vitamins and wholegrains in every meal to boost mood and take care of your wellness from within.
Prebiotic foods such as carrots, onions, leeks, and green bananas help to produce the short chain fatty acids in the gut. Furthermore, turkey is a highly potent source of tryptophan, as are bananas. Protein is responsible for providing the brain with amino acids and therefore it’s important to ensure that your diet contains enough. All of these foods promote gut health and, consequently, brain health.
Some studies suggest that omega-3 increases serotonin and reduces levels of cortisol. This can be found in oily fish, but for those who do not eat much (or any) fish, it’s vital to supplement. Omegabiocell369 is an entirely plant-based source of ALA, which is converted into DHA and EPA in the body (the Essential Fatty Acids we find in fish sources).
Mental health is complex - more so than a diet. However, taking small steps to better habits and routines can all contribute towards our wellbeing for the better.
Recipe - Tuna with Noodles and Broccoli
Our brains are made up largely of essential fatty acids. We rely on food and supplements to meet our recommended intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) as our body can’t make them.
Omega-3 rich foods have been shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression and other mental disorders due to the increased production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals responsible for our moods), including dopamine and serotonin. Oily fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
When combined with complex carbohydrates (noodles) this supports slow energy release and facilitates the brain’s use of the mood boosting amino acid tryptophan.
Broccoli contains selenium, a trace mineral that plays an important role in our immune system functioning, reproduction and thyroid hormone metabolism. Studies suggest that low levels of selenium can contribute to depression, anxiety and fatigue.
Try our nutrient rich meal to boost your mood and energy levels.
2 tuna steaks
2 tbsp pesto
1 tbsp olive oil
100g black bean/ buckwheat or rice noodles
1 broccoli- cut into florets
1 red chilli- finely chopped
1 tbsp Omegabiocell 369
Rub the tuna in the pesto.
Cook the noodles according to pack instructions.
Add the chilli and the tuna steaks in the pan and cook on each side for 4 minutes.
Steam the broccoli.
When the tuna is ready set it aside, add the noodles to the pan and stir through the pesto.
Serve with noodles and broccoli and top with the tuna steak.
Drizzle over Omegabiocell369 for a lemony kick and extra nutrient boost.