A “Good Food Mood” experiment organised by Nairn’s Oatcakes New Zealand has shown that happiness and sleep are both given a significant boost when sugary, processed foods are replaced with nutritious, mood-boosting meals and snacks.

Nairn’s recruited ten volunteers to participate in their study following a call out on social media for Kiwis that were struggling with their sleep, feeling a bit blue or simply in need of an energy boost due to their hectic lifestyle.

The Good Food Mood volunteers were asked to increase the number of commonly recognised mood-boosting foods in their diets, such as bananas, chicken, eggs, and oily fish, oats and other wholegrains over the course of two weeks. They were required to track their food choices, mood, sleep quality and any other thoughts in a daily journal.

Almost all of the participants said they felt that their energy had increased and that their sleep was much better after the 14-day experiment. On average, their mood shifted from a score of 4/10 to 8.5/10. Only one volunteer said that her mood hadn’t improved. However, she was dealing with a broken arm, which likely skewed her result.

A typical day’s meal plan consisted of porridge or Weetbix with milk and banana for breakfast, a chicken salad for lunch and baked salmon with mixed vegetables and brown rice for dinner. Snacks included Nairn’s Scottish Rough Oatcakes with cottage cheese and Nairn’s Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits with a cup of tea.

The results that the Kiwi volunteers recorded are similar to those reported by researchers overseas. According to an experiment conducted at the University of Oxford, a high-fat diet over five days can contribute to impaired attention and memory function, as well as mood swings. Another study in Australia found that individuals with depression were significantly happier after 12 weeks if they changed their diet - to include more wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and foods with omega-3, such as fish.

“It’s no surprise that our volunteers said they felt better during and following the experiment. The studies that have taken place internationally all indicate that eating a healthy, high-fibre, nutrient-rich diet can make us feel happier, more relaxed and less likely to struggle with sleep problems. However, it was interesting to conduct an experiment ourselves to see if our Kiwi volunteers enjoyed the same benefits," said New Zealand spokesperson for Nairn’s, Sonali Prakash.

“We were thrilled that the participants said they experienced a noticeable difference in their mood. There were even some positive changes that we hadn’t expected. One of our volunteers had been suffering from indigestion on a daily basis. After two weeks of eating nutrient-dense meals and snacks, with a focus on those mood-boosting foods, he claimed he was no longer experiencing any indigestion at all! It’s a great reminder of just what a prominent role food has to play in our health, happiness and overall feeling of wellbeing.”

Nairn’s have used oats at the heart of all their products since 1896.