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Gut feeling - how food affects your mood

Gut feeling - how food affects your mood

Does what we eat affect how we feel? Sally Griffin looks at the evidence.

We often have an emotional attachment or associate certain memories with food. For me, the smell of freshly baked scones will always remind me of my mom’s home baking and make me feel nostalgic for the days of standing on a chair trying to reach the countertop to roll out the dough. On the other hand, if I don’t have my morning coffee and snack, I often feel irritated and ‘hangry’ (as some of my housemates may have already discovered!).

Our mood is something that constantly changes and is affected by lots of different factors. But what is the relationship between the foods we eat and how we feel? Do some foods make us feel better than others?

The evidence

Researchers are looking at the links between vitamins, minerals, the gut, omega-3, hydration, and probiotics, and mood. As these areas are still in the early stages of research, there are no clear answers around their effect, but the early findings are definitely exciting!

At the end of the day, we eat food for reasons other than nutrition. Food can give us pleasure and comfort. If we feel sad or lonely, we often crave certain foods. I know I reach for a bag of crisps if I’m having a bad day. So, if you find a particular food comforting, don’t be restrictive and try to enjoy it in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Practical tips

For me, feeling good starts with a having a routine. For days and weeks that I know I’ll be busy I batch cook on a Sunday evening. This helps me feel organised and I can simply pop the dish in the microwave after a long day, instead of accidently ending up in the chipper down the road. My other mood boosting tips are:

  • Eat well balanced, regular meals throughout the day. Click here for some recipe ideas.
  • Focus on including more slow releasing energy foods such as wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. Foods like chocolate and sweets can raise your blood sugar levels, resulting in them dropping again shortly after which can often lead to irritability and tiredness.
  • Look after your gut by eating foods that contain fibre such as fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains. Why not try fermented foods like kimchi, yoghurt, kombucha or kefir to feed the billions of bacteria in your gut. 
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Fill a reusable water bottle in the morning and sip throughout the day. If you don’t enjoy plain water, add some chopped fruit or lemon for flavour.
  • Try to include regular exercise, enough sleep and manage stress levels in your life.
  • Go easy on yourself!

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