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Have you ever noticed a decline in mood, energy and focus when consuming a highly processed, refined sugar diet? Well, you’re not alone and new research on the gut-brain connection suggests there’s more science behind the food for your mood phenomena. Here’s our guide on how to support your gut-brain connection and overall wellbeing with smart nutrition.
It’s not new news that the food you eat may be contributing to those happy go lucky vibes through the day, and vice versa, however the gut-brain connection is western medicine’s way of validating these anecdotal claims. So what’s the scoop (and by scoop we mean what does the gut-brain connection even mean)?
According to Harvard Health ‘a troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut’. The regarded institution has run countless studies confirming the findings, substantiating the holistic health practitioners claims that the food you eat very well might be to blame for your unexplained feelings of anxiety.
Nutritionists, naturopaths, homeopaths and the like have been shouting this from the rooftops for, well, forever, and thankfully some of us made valuable dietary shifts in support of our mental and emotional wellbeing way back when. Albeit, life’s not perfect and neither are we, meaning sometimes our diets stray from our gold-plated plant based all natural plate and we’re left feeling a little less like our uber confident, happy, focused, calm selves. So, what are the key low mood food contributors to be wary of?
According to Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre in Australia red meat, refined grains, sweets and high-fat dairy products were linked to a higher risk of depression. All four food groups are known as high-inflammatory foods and have in the past typically been shamed for their potential contribution to weight gain. Now, the spotlights on their contribution to unbalancing serotonin production in the gut therefore causing lower moods among consumers depending on their individual susceptibility.
In positive news, just as food can reduce mood it can boost it too. Here’s our top tips on how to support your gut-brain connection and overall mood with smart food.
- Eat Microbiome Supporting Foods
According to scientists from the University of Queensland, when it comes to supporting your gut-brain connection and mood, we’ve got to feed the ‘good bugs’ in our guts first to ensure the bad bugs aren’t taking reign. Luckily the Scandinavian diet already embodies a lot of good bug supporting foods, we’re talking kimchi, fermented vegetables, kombucha, kefir and yoghurt. Be careful though as bad bugs feed on sugar and many of these products available at standard supermarkets are packed with sugar and other hidden nasties. Op for all clean, 100% natural versions of these foods, or make them yourself at home.
- Increase Phytonutrient Foods
Phyto-what? Phytonutrients are found in plant foods and are important to help enhance good bug growth and functionality. As always, it’s important to eat a portfolio of plant produce, aka the rainbow to ensure nutrient diversity and prevent a sluggish metabolism.
- Up Your Fibre
Fibre helps your body’s natural digestion process and insoluble fibre is key to keeping you regular. Why is this important? Regularity ensures toxin excretion which we otherwise reabsorb if food (aka stool) sits in our bowels for days on end. High insoluble fibre foods include flaxseed, almonds, walnuts, quiona, cooked kale and raspberries.
- Eat a Variety of Plant Foods
Strong links have been revealed regarding nutrient deficiencies and depression, proving the importance of a varied, nutrient dense diet to support the gut-brain connection. Certain nutrients to look for include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are found in fish and other seafood such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines, as well as nuts and seeds such as, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts.
Vitamin B which is found in salmon, tofu, green peas, asparagus, avocado, spinach, mushrooms, lentils and eggs.
Folate which is found in dark leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and types of seafood.
Magnesium which is found in whole oats, buckwheat, kale, spinach, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and raw cacao.
Iron which is found in edamame, chickpeas, lentils, dried apricots, pistachios, cashews, almonds and walnuts. Always pair iron rich foods with foods high in Vitamin C such as a squirt of orange or lemon to support absorption.