• Kedren Elliott

Food and your Mood

Many of us have an emotional connection with food and turn to food when we feel a mix of emotions from feeling sad to feeling angry and even when we're bored.

Some say that food is like a drug, with sugar being thought as being addictive as any drug giving users highs and sugar lows.

However, food isn't something we can go 'cold turkey' on, if you can excuse the pun. So how can we improve our relationship with food and in turn use it to benefit our mood?

That's the million-dollar question that perhaps dietitians and nutritionists have been researching for years. There has been more and more recent research showing the real connection between our gut and the brain and the types of foods we can eat to improve our gut flora and the relationship between the two organs to help not only with our physical wellbeing but also with our mental health too.

So what kind of foods are going to give your mood a boost?

Whole foods

Try to steer clear of processed food, look at the packaging of your favourite nibbles and if the ingredient list is as long as your arm, do you really know what's in it?

Studies have shown that preservatives, food colourings and other additives may cause or worsen hyperactivity and depression. So look out for foods that contain a long list of numbered ingredients and things that you can't even pronounce. Choose products that just list a few healthy ingredients, or even better make your meals and your snacks yourself so that you know exactly what has gone in them.

Whole foods are foods that haven't been processed, refined or had ingredients added to them, they include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, fish and eggs.

Fibre-rich foods

Plant-based foods are full of fibre and contain pretty much everything that your body needs and fibre will help your body absorb glucose – or food sugars – more slowly and help you avoid sugar rushes and crashes. Protein is also great for keeping you fuller for longer. Fibre-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and nutrient-filled carbs like whole grains and beans.

Protein also contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings.

Foods rich in Antioxidants

These will help with any inflammation in your body, berries, leafy green vegetables, turmeric and foods with Omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon and black chia seeds. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants – and sugar – so indulge in moderation.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps with the production of serotonin (the happy hormone), and we usually get it from exposure to sunlight, which during the winter months over here in the UK we don't get much of and the reason why some of us suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D, but also and if you're deficient in the D you can take supplements that are available from any health food shop and you can also buy SAD lamps to bring a little light into your life!


This essential mineral helps with everything from nerve and muscle function to keeping a heartbeat steady. But it’s also vital to the food-mood connection: A mineral deficiency can hurt the bacteria in your gut and cause depression and anxiety-like symptoms. Load up with natural sources such as dark chocolate, cacao nibs, almonds and cashews, spinach and other dark leafy greens, bananas and beans.

Again you can also buy magnesium supplements from your local health food shop.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods are packed with probiotics, which are certain live bacteria that are good for your digestive tract. Examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and the fermented drink kombucha and kefir drinks and yoghurts are now available. (These foods also tend to be high in sodium, so consume in moderation or skip altogether if you have high blood pressure.)

Eat the rainbow

You may have already have heard of this phrase, with our modern diets becoming so reliant on processed and fast foods the microbiome in our gut and the good bacteria that live there have massively decreased and changed. Modern medicines such as antibiotics can also wreak havoc with your friendly gut bacteria and can leave you susceptible to getting ill again.

To help your gut flora and microbiome flourish eating a wide and varied diet with lots of different fruit and vegetables will make for better health. This includes things like garlic, ginger, herbs and spices, whoever said that variety is the spice of life was right.

So load up on all this good health stuff, look for new fruits, veg, herbs and spices that you haven't tried before and get adventurous, you never know you might like what you find!

Listen to our Happiness Hub Podcast with Nutritionist Janie Bishop to find out more on how to improve your health through your diet.

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