Good mood food: How to eat yourself calm

Good mood food yellow cup on sunlit window sill

The outbreak of Covid-19 continues to cause widespread worry and anxiety. Choosing good mood food and keeping your gut healthy can make all the difference to how we cope when stress levels escalate.

It is common for people to turn to “comfort food” in the light of increased stress and worry. But sugary, fatty treats are the worst thing you can eat if you want to keep your body, brain and immune system in good shape.

GP and wife of Dr Michael Mosley, Dr Clare Bailey provides her expert advice on the link between the mind and body, and how to mindfully eat good mood food to reduce stress.

Dr Bailey says “While prescribed medication and counselling can be helpful, research now shows that our diet can also play a key role in managing stress and sleeplessness.  The link lies in our gut; two to three kgs of microbes live in the digestive system, and amongst other things they produce neurotransmitters. These chemicals convey messages from the gut, through the nervous system to the brain – impacting our mood and anxiety levels.  80% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut.”

So the healthier the gut, the more emotionally resilient we are.

The better we are feeling, the easier it is to sleep; create a positive cycle of eating better, sleeping better and reducing stress and you will also improve your body’s ability to fight infection.

Dr Bailey shares her top tips for good mood food that may help boost the gut/brain axis and our ability to cope with stress levels:

Think Mediterranean

Eating a low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet rich in different coloured fruits and vegetables will give you the best chance of getting the wide variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients your body needs.

The high fibre content is a great way to boost your microbiome, the trillions of microbes that live in your large intestine and which are so important for your health.

Olive oil, common within the Mediterranean diet, helps reduce gut inflammation. Try it as salad dressing or drizzled over some cooked vegetables for a double whammy and it makes all that veg, beans and lentils taste so much better.

Eat fertiliser foods

It is possible to correlate a healthy diet with a healthy mind.  Prebiotic foods form the foundation of a psychobiotic diet – a vegetable and fibre rich one that’s good for your brain, keeps your mood up and anxiety levels at bay. They act as the ‘fertilizer’ for the good bacteria and encourage them to proliferate and in time counter the effects of more harmful bacteria. Leeks, onions and garlic are all prebiotics.

Ferment to strengthen

Fermented foods like kefir, miso paste, kombucha and sauerkraut all help strengthen the good bacteria in the gut, while fruit, vegetables and whole foods rich in fibre feed the gut microbiome, and allow it to thrive.

Grow the good bacteria

If prebiotics act like fertiliser for the gut, probiotics are the seeds – they help the healthy growth of ‘good bacteria’.  You can find probiotics in fermented foods like live yogurt, as well as kimchi and sauerkraut. If you take a probiotic supplement, make sure it is clinically proven.

Cut down on the sweet stuff

It’s also important to try and avoid (or at least cut down) on processed foods like takeaways. As tempting as they may be during any type of isolation or stress, these foods destroy the active, healthy bacteria in the digestive system.

Treat your microbiome with care; feed it well and it will look after you. Try some of The Fast 800 recipes that cut down on the sweet stuff and bolster your immune system today!


Dr Michael Mosley is an ambassador and co-founder of The Fast 800 online programme, a comprehensive plan offering support and step-by-step guidance to help you achieve long-lasting health.

Want to try The Fast 800 but need some extra recipes, advice and support? The 12-week programme is your first step to better health, with meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, Health Coach support, exercise and mindfulness plans and more.

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