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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Newman

This Nutritionist Shares Top ‘Happy Foods’

Choosing good mood food and keeping your gut healthy can make all the difference to how we cope when stress levels escalate. Did you know that two to three kilograms 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. Eighty percent of our serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut.

happy woman cooking
A nutritionist recommends foods to keep you happy

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.

The Fast 800 Nutritionist, Gabrielle Newman, gave us her expert advice on the link between the mind and body, and how to mindfully eat good mood food to reduce stress.

Tell us, what are some mood-boosting foods?

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, as well as providing lots of fibre and resistant starch to feed your gut microbiome; the trillions of microbes that live in your large intestine and which are so important for your health.

How do mood-boosting foods affect our overall health and wellbeing?

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.

What are your top tips for people to eat their way to inner calm?

How effective is the Mediterranean diet?

It's 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.

live yogurt
Gabrielle recommends live yogurt to feed good gut bacteria

Feed 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.

There is a big body of scientific evidence to support the belief that a Mediterranean-style diet is great for your physical health & your waistline. It will cut your risk of heart attack or stroke by around 30%, reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 50%, and slash your risk of breast cancer by 70%. It is also a great way to lose weight and that’s why it forms the basis of The Fast 800 programme.

But recent research shows it is great for your mental health and well-being too, having a positive effect on mood and helping to ease depression.

That’s because the foods that make up the traditional Mediterranean diet (plenty of olive oil, nuts, oily fish, fruit, veg and whole grains, a reasonable amount of full-fat yogurt and cheese, and perhaps even a glass of red wine with the evening meal) are packed with the nutrients your body needs; it’s happy food!

What are your top meals/foods/ingredients to beat stress in a chaotic world?

1. Eat a wide variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables which will contain a good mix of vitamins, antioxidants and plant nutrients a happy brain needs.

2. Eat leeks, onions, garlic and pulses which are packed with fibre to feed the gut bacteria which make happy hormones.

3. Enjoy oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel) three times a week as the omega-3 fats can help lower levels of depression.

4. Experiment with fermented foods like sauerkraut or full fat Greek yoghurt to support your happiness-inducing gut bacteria.

5. Treat yourself to an occasional square of very dark chocolate which contains feel- good compounds (flavonoids) linked to improved mood.

6. Include nuts – a moderate intake can lower your risk of depression.

For more healthy lifestyle tips, head to


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