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Food for moods

We all have favourite food for moods - those that we turn to as a reward, or to make ourselves feel better - but is there any scientific evidence that there really are food for moods?

While it is certainly true that on a personal level we each have different food for different moods, hard scientific data is at best unclear, at worst contradictory. One problem in assessing the effect of food for moods is that what you eat is not only related to its taste or appearance, it also depends on how hungry you are, and when and where you've eaten it before. In other words, eating the right thing, at the right time, with the right people, makes us feel good.

Another area that adds to the confusion is the huge individual variations in how we react to what we eat and drink. While many people feel relaxed and sleepy after eating carbohydrates, others feel energised. Similarly, while some people can drink several cups of coke or coffee and feel no effects, others will be buzzing for hours after just one drink.

One product with an undoubted ability to change people's mood is chocolate. Research has shown that the combination of sugar and fat creates a huge craving. Chocolate, with its 50% fat/50% sugar combination - plus the endorphin-releasing substance phenylethylamine - thus offers the perfect blend to stimulate and soothe.

Despite all the variations, the general consensus is that carbohydrates, particularly whole grains, help boost levels of serotonin, the soothing, mood-elevating brain chemical. Proteins, in particular turkey, tuna, and chicken, boost dopamine and norepinephrine, improving levels of attention, motivation, and reaction time.

Ultimately we each have to do our own research, experimenting with what we eat and when we eat it in order to gain more control over our feelings, and in the process, enhance our daily performance.




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