Do Brain Foods Actually Exist?

February 27, 2020

Do Brain Foods Actually Exist?


We’re constantly being flooded with information about the effect our diet plays on physical health, but given the increasing attention and prevalence of mental health illnesses, it's time to start looking into the way food can impact our mental wellbeing. 

Over recent years, several studies have emerged about the role that diet can play on our mental health, such as the SMILES trial, which looks at the effects of a Mediterranean diet on reducing depression. However, today we're going to look into 'brain foods' and discuss whether they actually work.

The key mechanisms behind ‘brain foods’ relates to their effect on our mood, emotions and memory. Our brains all contain chemicals called neurotransmitters which essentially talk to each other and communicate information to regulate emotions like stress, fear or happiness[1]. What we’ve recently discovered is that certain foods can help these neurotransmitters work better, specifically those which contain chemicals called tryptophan and tyrosine, which are types of amino acids[2]. Tyrosine commonly acts to increase our levels of dopamine, and tryptophan increases our levels of serotonin. These brain chemicals are usually referred to as the ‘happy hormones’ as they are responsible for regulating the body’s mood, appetite and reward system.

So what foods actually contain these amino acids? Well, we're quite familiar with these brain foods as they also provide a variety of other health benefits which we've discussed in past blog posts. Here's a little graphic of our top-5 brain foods, based on their high content of these amino acids...


So know that we know how food can affect our mood, let’s try and make them a regular part of our diet. Check out our favourite recipes which contain these foods below. It's a great way to get more creative in the kitchen and boost your brain food intake!

Pumpkin Spinach Salad 

Dukkah Crusted Tofu with a Honey Dijon Veggie Slaw

Matcha, Pistachio and Fig Energy Bites

 Vegan Chocolate Mousse


We hope you found this blog helpful and inspiring! Share your thoughts and creations on Instagram by tagging us @goodiesandgrains and using the hashtag #goodiesandgrains
[1] (2016). The Brain—Lesson 2—Neurons, Brain Chemistry, and Neurotransmission (Page 1 of 2). [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2016].
[2] [2]Sathyanarayana Rao, T., Asha, M., Ramesh, B. and Jagannatha Rao, K. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(2), p.77.

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