Millions of Brits are looking to food to boost their mood – including home-cooked meals and fresh fruit and vegetables.
A study of 2,000 adults found 44 per cent have become more aware of the impact foods have on how they feel during the last few weeks.
And 62 per cent named it as one of the main things they choose to keep their spirits up at the moment.
More than a third (39 per cent) said home-cooked food improves their mood, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) tucking into more fresh fruit and vegetables than before.
Chocolate is considered to be the biggest mood booster by those polled, in the survey commissioned by Yakult, with milk (41 per cent) and dark (36 per cent) varieties taking the top spots, followed by coffee (35 per cent).
Bananas (28 per cent) and cakes (30 per cent) also scored favourably in terms of providing a mood boost, with banana bread becoming one of the most Instagrammable treats.
But burgers, pizza and mac ’n’ cheese were found to be the foods which leave you feeling worse off, despite 23 per cent naming pizza as three times more ‘mood boosting’ than sushi.
Dr Megan Rossi, speaking on behalf of Yakult, said: “While understandably at this time it may seem challenging, finding ways to keep our spirits up is important for our overall health.
“There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that well-fed gut bacteria can positively impact our mood, thanks to the gut-brain axis – the two-way communication that occurs between our gut and brain.
“While many of us seem to be turning to milk chocolate as the top choice for boosting our mood, dark chocolate contains around 8 to 10g of fibre per 100g – making it high fibre, which is essentially food for our gut microbes, linked with better mental health.
“Omega-3, found in oily fish such as salmon and in plant sources like walnuts and flaxseed, has also been linked with improvement in mood disorders.
“So, although oily fish and walnuts don’t appear to be our go-to foods for a mood-boost based on the research by Yakult, they are certainly worth a thought next time people are picking up their groceries.”
The study also found berries, apples and a good old cuppa are also among the mood boosting food and drinks, with berries and apples proven to be packed with vitamins, minerals and compounds that may produce calming and mood boosting effects.
Sushi was considered five times more likely to improve the mind-sets of 18 to 24 year olds, than those over 55 years.
And 50 per cent of over 55’s chose red and white wine as a mood improver, compared to 35 per cent of those under 24.
It also emerged that as adults look to shop responsibly, 28 per cent are now buying more ‘mood boosting’ foods – with nearly half (49 per cent) listing ‘taste’ as the biggest priority when grocery shopping.
Of those who buy foods for a boost, 49 per cent consider their mood to be improved for several hours or longer, as a result.
Health-conscious Londoners were 50 per cent more likely to prioritise calories when shopping than those in Wales – with the Welsh being the most price sensitive when it comes to buying food.
But those in the north west were most likely to consider the effect food has on their moods (17 per cent).
Mid-afternoons were found to be the favourite time to snack, with a quarter admitting they are eating more snacks at the moment.
However, while healthy snacks like nuts, seeds, berries and bananas are widely recognised as containing nutrients and vitamins that can boost moods, 36 per cent admitted they aren’t really sure what foods to turn to when they’re feeling unhappy.
And only four of the top 10 foods considered by those polled to be ‘mood boosting’ are proven to contain vitamins, minerals and compounds that will positively impact mental health.
Despite this, 44 per cent are longing for more mood boosting staples.
Outside of the kitchen, walking (51 per cent), reading (40 per cent) and watching TV and boxsets (41 per cent) are the most popular activities to lift spirits.
And just under a quarter feel the urge to spring clean (24 per cent).
Emma Dita, from Yakult UK said: “Food is an essential part of our daily life and it is perhaps more important than ever to make sure it contributes to our overall wellbeing.
“There are scientific arguments to support the difference certain foods can make and as Yakult is a company with science at its core, dedicated to contributing to the health and wellness of people around the world, we wanted to open this conversation.
“With so many of us now spending longer than usual indoors, we can take comfort in knowing that we are still able to get the vitamins and minerals we need from foods.
“Products such as Yakult Light, enriched with vitamin D and E, along with 20 billion unique bacteria scientifically proven to reach the gut alive, can help us achieve 15 per cent our recommended daily intake of vitamin D.”
DR MEGAN ROSSI’S TOP FIVE SMALL CHANGES TO BOOST YOUR MOOD
1. Load up on a variety of plant-based foods. Try to aim for 30 different types a week, across fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
2. Fall in love with extra virgin olive oil and good sources of omega 3 such as fatty fish and walnuts. Studies show a Mediterranean diet very high in fibre, extra virgin olive oil as well as good sources of omega-3 is effective in improving depression scores.
3. De-stress with mindfulness. Try doing just 10 minutes a day of meditation, or using a mindfulness app. Studies show a difference in 12 weeks.
4. Dabble in fermented foods. Vegetables, like pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut, or fermented milk products, like Yakult, can be tasty additions that, anecdotally, have been praised as mood boosting foods for centuries.
5. Get quality sleep. Feeling tired can have a big influence and improving sleep quality can boost your mood. Busy mind? Try jotting down any worries in a diary and unplugging from all forms of media at least two hours before bed.
TOP 20 FOODS BRITS THINK HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON IMPROVING THEIR MOOD
1. Milk chocolate
2. Dark chocolate
4. Ice cream
5. Chocolate biscuits
12. Red wine
16. Nuts & Seeds
17. Oily fish (e.g. salmon)
19. Crisps and savory snacks