We all have that friend that just can’t deal with being hungry. As soon as their blood sugar drops they can’t help but get agitated and cranky.
But the effect that food has on our mood goes far beyond hangry (hungry angry). Certain chemicals in food can stimulate and suppress our own brain chemistry, altering the way we feel and affecting our moods.
The relationship between food and your mood is complex and can effected by things like the time of day, the nutrient composition of the food, how much is eaten, and the age and gender of the diner. For example, studies have shown that carbs tend to make women feel sleepy, while men tend to become more calm.
One of the best examples of moody foods is aphrodisiacs. For centuries, people have believed that certain foods have the ability to spice up your love life and today modern science backs it up. Foods such as chocolate and bananas have been shown to stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain, which we associate with the feeling of being in love. Some scientists have even theorised that chocolate cravings might go beyond a simple sugar hit and instead could be our brains way of cheering itself up. Other foods such as avocado and oysters effect hormone levels and can increase libido, while others like chilli create a physiological reaction that mimics arousal.
Ever blamed a poor life choice on tequila, a rage on rum or an emotional outburst on gin?
There are lots of associations between different types of alcohol and mood, but unfortunately it turns out that we can’t blame the booze for our mood swings. Biologists say that all alcohol is made up of the same stuff, ethanol, and so ultimately the effect it has is the same no matter what you’re drinking. Even absinthe which contains the psychoactive ‘thujone’ has it in such small amounts that it really wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Serotonin is the chemical that makes us feel happy and there are lots of different types of food that can elevate serotonin levels. Potassium rich bananas are high in amino acids, which trigger the body to produce tryptophan, which in turn is essential for stimulating serotonin. Eggs, pineapple, blueberries, cottage cheese and avocado are also very high in these amino acids.
One unusual study from the Leiden Institution in the Netherlands found that eating lots foods high in tryptophan, such as eggs, can also increase your generosity. During the study, participants that consumed tryptophan donated on average twice as much to charity as those in the placebo group.
Turns out, you really are what you eat!