My name is Inma and I’m the founder of Best Kept Health. I’m a Nutrition and Health Coach, a fermenter and a confessed minimalist. I love anything to do with food and I spend most of my days with my head buried in recipes and books about gut health and food science. I believe in the importance of simplifying our lives and eating minimally processed foods to be in good physical and mental shape. I also believe education is an essential part of the process - information and awareness are key steps to making healthy decisions.
I know all about stress and poor lifestyle choices, they dictated my life in the past which led to some serious gut issues. Overcoming those issues gave me a kind of superpower, it was life changing and it was as easy as improving the way I ate, improving the way I lived and educating myself. This empowerment made me want to help others that were in the same situation make a change and that’s how Best Kept Health was created. At Best Kept Health we believe good health starts from the inside out. We are passionate about gut health, fermented and wholefoods and love to share our knowledge, recipes and advice on how to introduce nutrient dense food into your diet that support a happy mind and a healthy body.
Today I want to talk about our favourite topic. It’s something most of us don’t think about often and definately don’t talk about enough: how food affects our mood. So the question here is… can we really eat ourselves happy? The answer is: absolutely yes!
We all know our mood sometimes affects the way we eat - when we are upset or tired we tend to crave foods high in fat and carbohydrates. When we are sad, we tend to go to the sweet side. But could the food we eat have an impact on our feelings, emotions and even decisions? Could it make us feel anxious, depressed or happy?
You’ve probably noticed that a breakfast of a black coffee and a donut - or no breakfast at all - makes for an anxious and edgy start to the day, while a good slice of wholemeal bread and scrambled eggs leaves you feeling calm and clearheaded. The foods you eat form the building blocks of your body, which includes your brain. Food is also the fuel for everything that goes on within your body and mind, including your thoughts and emotions. A diet high in sugar, gluten, omega-6 fatty acids, and toxins (yes, I’m talking about the Western diet) can have devastating effects on the brain and consequently on our mental health.
This typical diet causes inflammation, which triggers a stress response in the brain, causing the release of cytokines. These immune system messengers, when produced inappropriately or in excess, affect the brain’s ability to receive and process signals from other parts of the nervous system. Cytokines (inflammatory molecules) are produced in response to increased blood sugar levels, consumption of trans fats, and changes in the bacteria in the gut - they lead to an increase in the same inflammation markers that are raised in people with depression.
The digestive system has a surprising influence on your mental state. The gut has its own nervous system, consisting of approximately 100 million nerve cells and using more than thirty neurotransmitters, just as your brain does. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in the body is found in the gut. And the balance of bacteria in the gut – the microbiome, which is directly affected by our diet – plays a critical role in mood and behaviour. It is the trillions of micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeasts that live in our guts that help convert essential amino acids like tryptophan that are found in food, into serotonin and they can be encouraged by consuming fermented goodies such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir, and fibre from many different plant sources. But, crucially, it is not enough just to eat well: you need to consume all the nutrients and fibre your body needs – and avoid significant consumption of refined and heavily processed foods.
The body is a complex system, there’s not just one healthy way to eat. Eating closer to a traditional, pre-industrial diet rich in plant foods, fish, unrefined grains and fermented foods, with less meat and highly palatable processed and snack foods, reduces your risk of depression. Unlike most risk factors for depression (including genes, poverty, trauma and abuse), diet is something we can modify – yet only about 10% of the population eat an adequately healthy diet. It is certainly possible to eat yourself happy or happ-ier and again is up to us make that shift, by changing how we eat and more importantly, understanding our needs and choosing wisely what we put in our mouths.
I hope you found this information useful, engaging and enjoyable! It’s certainly a very exciting area of research :)
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