Improve your Food . Improve your Mood!
Living in the city wasn't doing me any good but I couldn’t figure out why, until I looked at what I was eating.
Improve your Food to improve your Mood!
www.thehonestearth.com To lead a quality life, one must be nourished with quality. We make the best plant based protein powders & supplements with sustainable ingredients from around the world.
As I continue exploring how to improve and optimise the human body, I found myself going down the rabbit hole particularly with mental improvement, because if your mood is good you are creative and if you are depressed, you aren’t creative and your immune system is functioning at very low levels.
I kept asking myself, if I could improve my mind through knowledge and supplementation the same way I have improved my physical body what would that feel like?
The Nootropic product ‘Brain Dust’ that we came up with here at Honest Earth is the result of that interest and research. However, “mental state” is not just cognitive processes. There’s more to it, there is an “emotional aspect” that can also be fine tuned and improved. I’m talking about mood.
What is ‘mood’? According to psychology, mood is an emotional state that is distinct from temperament and personality traits, in that it is momentary and changes over time. Mood is, basically, HOW you feel as opposed to WHAT you are. Everyone has a certain mood in any given point in time. So, you might be in a positive mood at one point in time and in a negative or bad mood another time.
Mood has a big effect on almost every other aspect of our mental state and being. It affects how productive we are, how we behave and how good our health is. It really affects how we perform in life. Poor mood over an extended period of time can even lead to mental health problems, such as depression, bipolar disorder, antisocial disorder et. Mood can change rapidly with some people and more slowly with other.
Through research I came to realise that my mood, and I’m guessing yours too is largely affected by two factors (if we count out factors such as illness, tragedy or other outside factors) and that is: 1) Sleep and 2) Nutrition.
We will talk about the importance of sleep and how to improve it in a separate post. Here I will focus just on Nutrition and how you can make some small adjustments to your daily nutrition that will have huge affects on your mood, for the better!
It was almost shocking for me to learn all the different ways in which food is crucial for how we feel on a daily basis.
The Link between ‘food’ and ‘mood’ — the two brains
Really, we have 2 brains…. The brain as you know it up there in your skull packed with all those neurons, and the second area of your brain packed with neurons… your stomach! Have you ever had ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? Yep, that’s why! Your stomach tissue is jam packed with millions of neurotransmitters that are directly connected to the neurotransmitters in our brain tissue.
So, when we consider the connection between the brain and the gut, it’s important to know that 90% of your serotonin receptors are located in the intestines, the gut. There is even now a whole science around it, called nutritional psychiatry, which is concerned with how food affects our mental state. Have you ever felt ‘Hangry’? Yup, the serotonin receptors make you feel aggressive when you really need food, are you seeing the connection now? Cool!
Microbiome and the brain
In addition to the direct communication of guts and brain via nerves, a lot of research has recently been published about the link between the microbiome (I mention it in in more detail in this previous post) and mood and mental health. It seems that the bacteria living in our intestines produce many of the neurotransmitters and amino acids used by the brain. The bacteria in our guts also mature and change over time, just as our other organs mature. In addition to protecting our gut and acting as a sort of immune systemin our intestines, these bacteria also prevent bad bacteria from spreading, and produce some vitamins as well. When the balance between the good and bad bacteria is disrupted, you get a disease. Examples of such diseases include: inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), asthma, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cognitive and mood problems. For example, IBD is caused by dysfunction in the interactions between microbes (bacteria), the gut lining, and the immune system.
Effects of animal vs plant-based food on the mood
Researchers conducted a study to compare the moods of meat eaters and vegetarians, and that study found that vegetarians reported experiencing more positive moods than meat eaters. This study was published in the Nutrition Journal (Beezhold, Johnston and Daigle, 2010). It seems that a plant-based diet as well as avoidance of animal products, and especially meat, in addition to being overall healthier is also better for your mood. There is a lot of research linking imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and noradrenaline as well as inflammation processes in the brain to depression, low mood and metal problems. Plant foods are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are widely known to help repair damage and decrease inflammation in brain cells. In addition, plant-based foods can help restore necessary balance to neurotransmitters. Depression is also related to elevated levels of a certain enzyme called monoamine oxidase, ‘MAO’ which serves to remove serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, all of which are very strongly connected with mood as well as depression.
Many people suffering from depression have elevated levels of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO). A chemical found only in plant foods, called quercetin acts as a MAO inhibitor. This helps fight depression and keep mood up.
Animal-based foods and inflammation
Arachidonic acid, a type of fat found only in animal products, is used in our bodies as a precursor for chemicals that cause inflammation. By eating foods high in arachidonic acid, such as chicken, eggs, and other animal products, we set off a cascade of chemical reactions in our body. These reactions lead to an increase in inflammatory mediators circulating in the bloodstream (Harizi, Corocuff and Gualde, 2008). The result is body-wide unspecified inflammation. Inflammation causes body wide feelings of uneasiness as well as pain. When inflammation reaches the brain, subsequent feelings of anxiety, stress, hopelessness, and depression arise (Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, Shulze, 2014).
A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry analysed the dietary patterns and risk of depression in 3,486 participants over a five-year period. Individuals eating whole foods reported fewer symptoms of depression compared to those who ate mostly processed foods (Akbaraly at all, 2009). This has mostly to do with your gut microbiome and how it reacts to “artificial” foods. If you think about it, processed foods are something of a novelty in our diet. They have existed only for about 100 years give or take. Our internal processes, as well as the bacteria we live with, have not had the time yet to adapt to the changes in our diet, especially ones such as processed foods. These include sugar and sugary drinks, processed meat products, processed milk products and things like packaged snacks and sweets. These foodstuffs also contain many chemical additives which have been produced in the lab and have not existed anywhere in nature. One important thing to note is that although we know relatively that these chemicals won’t kill you (at least not outright, more on that in a later post) we have no idea how they affect our gut bacteria!!!! Many of these chemicals could very well be antibiotics or stimulate the growth of bad bacteria in our guts, we simply don’t know.
So, when all things are taken into consideration certain things spring into view. Plant based nutrition is evidently better when it comes to improving your mood. Whole foods vs processed foods are evidently better for your overall mood. Fresh vegetables, greens and other foods high in prebiotics are healthy and good for your gut microbiome, which again contributes to superior mood. As for getting enough protein in your diet, then plant-based proteins are the best way to go forward, not only wont you see any reduction in muscle synthesis and physical results but you will see better results in that plant based proteins and protein powders do not include ingredients that disrupt your microbiome and therefore your mood!
Aaron is the founder of www.thehonestearth.com To lead a quality life, one must be nourished with quality. We make the best plant based protein powders & supplements with sustainable ingredients from around the world.
Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ, Ferrie JE, Marmot MG, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. Br J Psychiatry. 2009;195:408–413.
Beezhold BL, Johnston CS, Daigle DR. Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in seventh day adventist adults. Nutr J. 2010;9:26.
Harizi H, Corcuff JB, Gualde N. Arachidonic-acid-derived eicosanoids: roles in biology and immunopathology. Trends Mol Med. 2008;14:461–469.
Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, Shulze MB, et al. Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain Behav Immun. 2014;36:46–53.