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Good mood food: Which ingredients are best for improving mood?

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Mintel reports consumers are using natural ingredients including CBD and polyphenols to support mood.

Polyphenols, CBD and mushroom psilocybin are just some ingredients that brands are using to improve mood and emotional well-being, which is a growing consumer interest, according to Mintel.   

“In recent years, consumers' health concerns have shifted towards a more holistic approach,” says Neha Srivastava, patent analyst for food, drink, beauty and personal care, at Mintel. “Consumers now look for products that are nutritious and also have mood/emotional wellbeing-enhancing properties.  

“As mood and emotional wellbeing become as important as physical wellbeing, brands have started innovating food and drink products that contribute to feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, mood enhancement and calming.” 

According to Srivastava, there has been a marked increase over recent years in the number of patents being published for mood-enhancing food and drinks. 

“With increasing research showing the link between less sleep and increased stress on mood, innovators have started exploring food and drink ingredients that help to improve sleep and reduce stress,” she says in a patent insights report published by Mintel. 

Improving mood via the gut-brain axis and better sleep 

Mintel research shows that consumers' awareness of the importance of emotional and mental health is high. Fifty-six percent of Chinese consumers think that maintaining a positive mindset is important to achieving a healthy lifestyle and 63% of Brazilians agree that they would like to have more food and drinks with ingredients that can improve emotional wellbeing and mental health. 

Interest in mood-enhancing products has been given a boost by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has created feelings of stress, isolation, and anxiety in millions of people around the world. 

Scientific research is also shedding light on the mechanisms at play when it comes to how and why certain ingredients, bioactive molecules and microbes can influence people’s mood. A growing understanding of the gut-brain axis is already prompting food and drink brands to explore how they can tap into this growing category.  

Recently, CPG giant Unilever partnered with Holobiome, a US company founded by research scientists from Northeastern University, to identify the prebiotic ingredients, such as dietary fibres and polyphenols, that can positively influence mood via by interacting with neurotransmitter-producing bacteria in the gut. 

Another potential area for product development is sleep aids. Although often neglected, sleep is vitally important as it allows the body and brain time to repair and replenish. World-renowned neuroscientist and sleep expert Dr Matthew Walker has described sleep as the foundation on which the two pillars of a healthy lifestyle – diet and exercise – lie. Without nourishing and restful sleep, the pillars of diet and exercise are shakier.  

Patents for CBD and mushrooms 

Research and development scientists are looking to the nutraceutical and botanical world for bioactive ingredients that can positively enhance mood. 

One pending patent filed by Sundip Narula describes a method to extract cannabis and use it in a mood-enhancing beverage. The drink also contains almonds, pistachio and seeds of fennel, pumpkin, sunflower, cucumber, watermelon, and antelope seeds, in addition to black pepper, cardamon, khus khus, dried ginger, rose petals and saffron. 

Meanwhile, another pending patent by Wagner Salvini Christine describes the potential of mushroom psilocybin for its mood-enhancing properties. The composition comprises extracts from mushroom varieties Basidiomycota, Ascomycetes or Sordariomycetes, combined with CBD and botanicals. According to the patent, the psilocybin present in the mushrooms, along with botanicals, stimulates mood. 

“Mushrooms are an important source of ingredients for modern medicine and holistic remedies. The phytotherapeutic efficiency of terpenes from mushrooms has been previously proven,” writes the scientist. The rising awareness about functional food has created a rapidly emerging scientific revolution in medicinal mushrooms.” 

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