The good mood food guide

Whether it's the variety of millets available in Karnataka or amaranth from Himachal Pradesh or pure turmeric from Salem in Tamil Nadu, the book throws light on their importance.
Representational image of healthy food.
Representational image of healthy food.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, warned us about bad digestion being the root of all evil. He also said that death sits in the bowels. This may have seemed like a bit of an overstatement 2,500 years ago when he said it, but nutritional psychiatry today will tell you that he was right.

Exploring the realm of gut feelings, Dr Nandita Iyer, author and food blogger, has examined and explained the importance of maintaining the brain-gut axis. This is the bidirectional link between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system that regulates food and mood. In her new book, Everyday Superfoods, she explains how small healthy additions can positively impact gut bacteria, thus improving both brain and gut health.

There is so much talk about superfoods but little understanding of what they do. In addition, in a country as large as India, looking at the sheer diversity in terms of superfoods is important. Whether it's the variety of millets available in Karnataka or top quality amaranth found in Himachal Pradesh or pure turmeric from Salem in Tamil Nadu, Iyer throws light on their importance and usability in everyday food. There are recipes and easy meal plans that teach you how to get the best out of these superfoods. Whether it is to boost immunity or controlling diabetes or lower blood pressure, there is help for everyone.

Iyer's basic appeal is to make smart choices concerning food. Beans, leafy greens, yoghurt, overnight oats and beetroot are a few of the things you can get started with, to promote sound gut health. Eat a diet rich in fermentable fibres (prebiotics) such as fruit, legumes, and whole grains, vegetables and fermented foods (probiotics) such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi that feed the good gut bacteria, which produces neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and others that regulate mood. It helps lower anxiety and improves concentration.

Stay away from ultra-processed foods, Iyer suggests, as it contains sugar and starch, hydrogenated fats, and artificial colours. Studies show how seeds such as flaxseeds, chia, hemp and walnuts are rich in Omega-3 and naturally quell anxiety. Cutting back on gluten, added sugars and unhealthy fats helps too. If you find yourself binge-watching series because you can't sleep, or feel slow in your daily functions, check your plate.

Readily available and pocket-friendly superfoods

  • Amla

  • Amaranth

  • Bell peppers

  • Black eye peas

  • Chickpeas

  • Black pepper

  • Turmeric

  • Cabbage

  • Onion

  • Garlic

  • Moringa leaves

  • Prebiotic and probiotic

  • Fermented foods

Best to avoid

  • Refined oils

  • Sugar

  • Transfat

  • Gluten

  • Dairy

  • Additives

  • Foods high in glycemic index or those that raise blood sugar quickly

Easy ways to manage mood

  1. Do not miss meals. If your blood sugar rises and drops frequently, it can lead to your mood dwindling too.

  2. Don't start your day with caffeine as it jolts your system awake. You can have nuts or a fruit first thing in the morning.

  3. Slow down and check how you are feeling. If you are too stressed, your gut will not process food properly. This will make you irritable.

  4. Drink enough water. Lack of fluid intake can lead to brain fog and other serious issues over time. It may interfere with gut functioning, which can put you in a bad mood.

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The New Indian Express