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Eat Well, Feel Well: The Relationship Between Food And Our Mood

Eat Well, Feel Well: The Relationship Between Food And Our Mood

Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki celebrate after Ireland's Six Nations win over Scotland.

Eating well to feel well is paramount at the best of times, but even more so now as we all navigate our way through challenging and unprecedented period. Nutrition is important not just to stay physically healthy but also for your mental health, energy and overall mood and in the first part of our video series from the team of IRFU Performance Nutritionists, we explore the topic of food and mood with Emma Tester, Lead Performance Nutritionist Munster Rugby.


Food And Mood – Emma Tester, Lead Performance Nutritionist Munster Rugby

The types of food and the volume we eat can hugely impact our overall wellbeing. Even in the short term, food can completely lift or squash your mood. Think back to an event or outing you’ve been to where the food was fantastic, you probably remember that time more than other occasions and it probably impacted how much you enjoyed the event too. On the other hand, if you’ve been somewhere and the food was awful, chances are you won’t remember much else apart from how bad the food was.

The balance between one-off treats and over-indulgence can leave us feeling either happy and satisfied in the short term, or guilty and lethargic in the long run. However, when we try and adopt very strict ‘healthy eating’ regimes we’re left feeling restricted, frustrated and often bored with the food choices we’ve made available to us. Quite often when we’re too strict on ourselves, we demonise the foods we see as treats and we begin to label certain foods as good and bad. The temptation and cravings for the foods we’ve labelled as bad often becomes overpowering and if we do indulge, once again we’re left with a sense of guilt.

At the extreme end, chronic over or under consumption of food can impact our feelings of anxiety and depression. Research shows us that more nutritious diets containing higher quality foods (fruits, vegetables, oily fish, nuts and legumes) often impact our physiological wellbeing and reduced the risk of cardiometabolic diseases. However, a growing evidence basis also indicates a higher quality diet can decrease our likelihood of depression, whereas eating lots of processed and sugary foods can increase our overall risk.

An important consideration is that any positive change in dietary intake, whether it’s the volume or quality of foods we consume, is likely going to have a positive impact on our physical wellbeing. If we feel physically better there are likely hugely positive impacts on our mental wellbeing also. However, if we fixate on the planning, preparation and nutrient content of what we eat, this can negatively impact our relationship with food.

It’s important to seek a balance with our food intake, in general we should aim to adopt diets that are highly nutritious and provide the body with the nutrients it needs to function well. But we should also allow ourselves with the opportunity to consume foods we really enjoy, regardless of the label we place on them. This is essential to maintain a positive attitude to food, which will leave us in a good mood.

Over the coming weeks, you will hear from IRFU National Performance Nutritionists working with the National Talent Pathway, the Sevens and Women’s programmes and the Senior and Academy Performance Nutritionists from all four provinces in our ‘Eat Well, Feel Well’ mini-series. 

You can also continue to try tasty recipes from IRFU Performance Chef Maurice McGeehan by checking out our YouTube playlist here.