- Over half of adults say their mood is worse during winter. Exciting new research suggests food can make a difference, says Sally-Jayne Wright
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Have you noticed how cookery writers are linking food and mood? This winter, there’s a new cookbook called Happy Food: How Eating Well Can Lift Your Mood and Bring you Joy (Absolute Press) by Niklas Ekstedt and Henrik Ennart and also Eat Happy: 30-minute Feel-good Food (Penguin) by Melissa Hemsley. At London cocktail bar, Barts, there are cocktails called Happiness and Relax.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE TREND?
Authors and bartenders choose the words ‘happy’ and ‘relax’ deliberately because they’re the opposite of ‘sad’ and ‘anxious’. Overuse of anti-depressants and poor mental health are very topical. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression will be the leading illness globally by 2030 if we don’t act fast.
HOW HAS THIS IMPACTED HEALTH PROMISES ON FOOD PACKAGING?
They mention mental wellbeing. The protein and vitamin smoothies made by Upbeat Drinks “are scientifically proven to … support your mental performance”. Jujube Fruit snacks from Abakus Foods contain phytonutrients to ‘help calm the mind, improve sleep and uplift the mood’.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING USE OF MOOD FOOD YOU’VE SEEN?
Monarch Airlines launched a mood food menu to help passengers feel calmer during flights. The Mood Food box includes green tea and lavender cakes to improve relaxation.
YOU MENTIONED NEW RESEARCH EARLIER…?
Yes, scientists have found links between how we feel and our gut bacteria. We’re born with trillions of good and bad bugs in our tummies – our so-called microbiome. They like variety and what we eat affects the ratio of good to bad bacteria. A monotonous diet of sugary, processed foods is associated with reduced diversity of gut microbes and some long-term health conditions including Crohn’s disease, obesity and even depression.
IS THIS WHY FERMENTED FOODS HAVE BECOME SO POPULAR?
Yes. Yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and pickles are good because they contain probiotics or beneficial bacteria.
IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE THOUGH, IS IT?
No, we have a great deal still to learn. Some experts say the pasteurised, sweetened kefir and heat-treated pickles found in supermarkets are less effective than live, active, traditionally fermented foods. Health journalist, Henrik Ennart, writes in Happy Food that there’s no good science linking kombucha to gut health.
BUT CUSTOMERS BELIEVE THESE PRODUCTS WORK, DON’T THEY?
Right. Think of the success of Actimel and the number of people who claim to experience ‘that Actimel feeling’. In September, the Coca-Cola drinks company bought the Mojo kombucha business – a sure sign they’re expecting fermented tea to be successful or want a stake in it just in case.
NEVER MIND MICRO-BIOMES AND GUT MICROBES, WE’D BE LESS MOODY IF WE GOT ENOUGH SLEEP…
Point taken. Sleep deprivation is a 21st-century problem – so much so that the enterprising owners of Pop & Rest have opened a sleep centre in London’s Old Street where exhausted parents, jet-lagged travellers and weary commuters can rent nap pods by the hour. There are numerous food and drink products aimed at insomniacs.
Selfridges is selling Sleep Tea from the Niche Co. It contains camomile, lavender and lemon balm for a peaceful night’s slumber. Waitrose offers a milk drink called Sleep Well which contains full Jersey milk, honey, vanilla and valerian. “Drink 30 mins before you want to go to sleep” reads the pack copy. It tastes a tad medicinal but is surely healthier than Temazepam.
HOW CAN INDIES MAKE THE MOST OF MOOD FOOD?
Nearly one in three (29%) of us will suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) syndrome – lethargy and low mood brought on by a reduction in light. So autumn’s the time to promote and stock food and drink that lifts the spirits.
Could you put pick-me-up drinks or high protein snacks on your mood-boosting café or restaurant menu? How about flagging up mood-boosting products in-store?
WHOSE PRODUCTS SHOULD I STOCK?
Busy Botanist herbal teas attracted a lot of attention at September’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair. The southwest Ireland-based company was founded by a veterinary
herbalist. There are brews for when you’re feeling blue, stressed out or need a pick-me-up.
While some of us toss and turn, others feel like hibernating when winter comes. Using coffee to keep us alert can lead to anxiety if we drink too much. That’s why many new product launches involve natural pick-me-ups for mental focus such as matcha, mate, ginger and turmeric.
Matcha Now health drinks offer your customers a peaceful sustained energy boost. Tea Rex fresh fruit and root infusions won a Great Taste Award and include a variant called Wakey Wakey containing turmeric, ginger and lemongrass.
Or how about Virtue Energy Water? It contains the same amount of caffeine (80mg) as a cup of coffee from natural sources including yerba mate, guarana and ginseng.
WILL THE TREND LAST?
We think so, as food that lifts mood is part of a larger trend for food with health benefits. Who wouldn’t want to feel alert and happy? As long as British winters remain cold, wet, dark and depressing, we need all the help we can get.