How Plant-Based Food Can Improve Your Mood

The human gut environment known as microbiome is a community of different bacteria that has co-evolved with humans to be beneficial to both humans and bacteria. Researchers agree that a persons unique microbiome is created in the first one thousand days of life, but this can be altered throughout your life.

Ultra-processed food, processed-food and the effect on our gut

What we eat, especially processed foods that contain chemical additives and ultra-processed foods affect our microbiomes and increases our risk of disease. Ultra-processed foods contain substances extracted from food(sugar and starch), or added from food constituents(hydrogenated fats), or made in a laboratory and contains food colouring, flavour enhancers etc...

It is important to know that ultra-processed food such as fast food is manufactured to be extra tasty with the use of additives, and is cost effective to the consumer.

Some examples of processed foods include:

  • Canned food

  • Sugar coated dried fruit

  • Salted meats

Some examples of ultra-processed foods include:

  • Sodas and cold drinks

  • Sugary or savoury packaged snacks

  • Packaged breads

  • Buns and pastries

  • Fish

  • Chicken nuggets

  • Instant noodles

Researchers recommend fixing the problem by eating the correct food before trying gut modifying therapies like probiotics or prebiotics to help improve the way we feel.

But how does my gut affect my mood

90% of serotonin receptors are located in your gut, a new field of nutritional psychiatry helps patients understand how gut health and diet can positively or negatively impact your mood. There is anatomical and physiological two way communication between the gut and brain via the vagus nerve. The gut-brain axis offers us a greater understanding of the connection between diet and disease, including depression and anxiety.

When the balance between the good and bad bacteria is disrupted, diseases may occur. 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.

5 Tips for a healthier gut and improved mood

  1. Eat whole foods and avoid packaged or processed food

  2. Add a range of colourful fruit and vegetables to your diet

  3. Eat enough fiber and include whole grains and legumes into your diet

  4. Reduce and swap refined sugar for an organic plant-based sweetener

  5. Basic exercise daily


Uma Naidoo, MD

Harvard Medical School ' Gut Felling: How food affects your mood '

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