Friday, May 12, 2023

Be Ahead of the Trend: Market Dairy Foods as Mood Foods


Photo source: Etsy

Multiple times this week I have either read or heard the term “mood foods,” most notably on Wednesday when Liz Moskow, a food futurist based in Denver, spoke at the American Spice Trade Association annual conference. She identified mood foods as an upcoming space for food innovators. 

Mood foods are a natural progression from the comfort foods we have been craving the past few years. It’s also a natural evolution in the better-for-you foods sector. Moods foods remain better-for-you foods, containing more of the good stuff and fewer refined sugars and processing. It’s just another layer of premiumization. Call it a layer of love, of loving thyself. 

Mood foods are part of the self-care movement. And, it’s growing in popularity among young adults, many of whom have not gotten over the mental trauma of the pandemic. 

“Healthy is in the Head,” a recent global study from HealthFocus USA, identified a group of consumers highly committed to eating for mental and emotional well-being. Compared to others, these “mood-food consumers” place the highest level of importance on choosing foods and beverages that enhance their mood and emotional health and say they always consider their emotional health when they choose products. Thus, they are much more proactive about their health than the average shopper. What specifically sets them apart? Turns out, a lot, according to Cali Amos, director of human insights at HealthFocus.

“Health is no longer rooted in the physical. Consumers now view emotional well-being as the cornerstone of health, fueling greater desire for mental power, feeling confident and stress reduction,” said Amos. “Eighteen-to-29 year olds struggle the most with mental/emotional health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression and mood swings, and they are turning to foods and beverages to help them cope. Mood/emotional health benefits play an important role in their food and beverage choices, ahead of physical health and even nutrition.”

Source: Healthy is in the Head, HealthFocus USA

Mood foods are in their infancy, and dairy foods are well poised to play in this space. The protein and fat content of many dairy foods satiates and helps the body function at its best. Specifically, the essential amino acid tryptophan, which whole milk is one of the best food sources, is associated with making one’s mood more stable and reduce extremes in behavior by restoring the balance of certain natural substances, such as serotonin and melatonin, in the brain.

Tryptophan must be obtained through diet, and animal proteins are the best source. It was discovered in the early 1900s after it was isolated from casein in milk. 

Tryptophan has the lowest concentration in the body of any amino acid, yet, it is vital for a wide variety of metabolic functions that affect your mood, cognition and behavior, according to WebMD. Tryptophan elimination experiments have shown that tryptophan has a beneficial impact on mood, depression, learning, memory skills, visual cognition and aggression control.

Tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey is what causes drowsiness after the feast. It’s also the reason a warm glass of milk is good before bedtime and a pint of ice cream soothes a broken heart. 

Source: 2023 HealthFocus USA Trend Report

As mentioned, whole milk is one of the largest sources of tryptophan. Thus, anything made with whole milk also delivers. Think ice cream, cheese and yogurt. This means that dairy processors are starting with a base ingredient to which other mood-modifying ingredients may be added for extra benefits. explains that there is evidence that depression can be caused by a low-level inflammatory disorder or a deficiency of certain nutrients. By making some lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and avoiding sugar, highly processed foods and simple carbohydrates, you can lift your mood and reduce inflammation that can lead to chronic health issues such as heart disease, metabolic disorders and even cancer.      

Grace O, cookbook author and founder of FoodTrients, has compiled a list of foods that can enhance moods, in other words, mood foods. Many of these make sense in combination with dairy foods. 

Beets, spinach, edamame, beans and lentils, for example, contain high levels of folate, which supports cognition and a good mood. The red color of tomatoes and watermelon means they’re both full of lycopene, which helps prevent the formation of inflammatory compounds that can contribute to poor mood. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which helps reduce inflammation in the body and brain. The chromium in garlic acts as natural mood stabilizers. And, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals, with their fiber content being good for gut health and feelings of well-being.
For a complete list of good mood foods, link HERE

Speaking of gut health, while we know probiotics and prebiotics assist with a healthy digestive system, new research shows that these biotics may also play in the mood foods space. Emerging research presented during an April 18, 2023, session at SupplySide East, suggests that a healthy gut may benefit other areas of wellness, including mood, anxiety, cognition and sleep, according to Len Monheit, executive director, Global Prebiotic Association, Spring, Texas. He explained that gut/health digestion are the primary reasons why consumers purchase products containing prebiotics. But, as science emerges, and consumers get educated, there are other reasons. 

When consumers were asked why they purchased foods and drinks containing prebiotics, 73% said digestive health and another 73% said general well-being, according to a 2023 supplement survey from Industry Transparency Center cited by Monheit. In fact, consumers said they are looking to address areas of well-being even if they are not suffering from symptoms, even if they are satisfied with that area of health.

Ralf Jäger, managing member for Increnovo LLC, a global independent consulting firm based in Milwaukee, said that probiotics have been shown to significantly increase levels of serotonin. He cited a study published in 2019 in Frontiers in Psychiatry showing probiotic strains significantly improved sleep quality and mood (anger, fatigue and depression). The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 38 adults and 4 probiotic strains. 

You can read more about the study HERE.

Photo source: Former MOOD Ice Cream of Oakland, Calif., was a company before its time. The ice cream pop up and delivery shop created small-batch, handcrafted ice creams designed to lift spirits.

Let’s not forget chocolate and how it has long been a go-to for uplifting spirits. Chocolate is associated with increasing the amount of tryptophan entering the brain. The more tryptophan that crosses the blood-brain barrier, the more the body synthesizes serotonin and the fewer depressive symptoms one may experience. Chocolate and dairy foods are a match made in heaven. 

It’s time to get in the mood for mood foods. No mood ring required. 

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