Like banana, plantain is miracle mood lifter

Emotions are a delicate phenomenon that can affect the whole livelihood, yet to control them is quite difficult. Many people have devised ways such as consumption of alcohol, hard drugs and foods like dark chocolate to help them control their emotions.

Experts have long known that dark bananas may help reduce fear and anxiety. Now, research suggests that consumption of plantain diet can also reduce fear and anxiety. It increases the level of brain serotonin which may have facilitated the calming, relaxing and mellowing serotonin circuits.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to feel happier and calmer, which is why many antidepressants are designed to increase levels of serotonin in the brain.

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To investigate the effect of consumption of unripe plantain on fear and anxiety behaviour, three groups of mice were fed with diet containing 100 per cent, 50 per cent and zero per cent (control) unripe plantain. The feedings lasted for 30 days before fear and anxiety behaviour was studied in these animals.

The light/dark transition box was used to assess anxiety and fear-related behaviours in the groups of mice.  This is a test that assesses unconditioned anxiety and exploratory behaviours. It is based on the perceived conflict in mice between exploring in a novel environment and avoidance of bright light.

A preliminary investigation of the concentration of serotonin in the brains of the mice using High Performance Liquid Chromatography shows that serotonin is significantly higher in the 100 per cent plantain diet group than control.

The 2018 study published in Tropical Journal of Natural Products Research involved Peter Erigbali at the Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State in collaboration with Eme Osim and Ofem Ofem from the University of Calabar.

Plantain is one of the over 40 species of the genus musa. This food crop is generally eaten cooked, fried, roasted ripe or unripe in contrast to the soft, sweet banana, which is of the same genus but eaten raw when ripe.

Plantain is affordable and readily available all year round in areas where it is cultivated. This staple diet in many countries of the world is rich in carbohydrates and fibre but lacks cholesterol. It contains vitamins A, B6, C and minerals; potassium, magnesium among others.

The parts of the plant has been used traditionally for their medicinal value in many ailments such as peptic ulcers, hypertension, diarrhoea, dysentery, and diabetes.

The science behind food’s effect on happiness is based on evidence that dietary changes can bring about changes in our brain chemistry – altering the hormones responsible for controlling our mood. This is where the so-called happiness hormone, serotonin, comes into play.

In the study, the researchers said that this staple food can provide nourishment as well as contribute to the management of emotional problems, with fewer side effects than drugs.

For instance, there was less occurrence of depression in a research population that consumed Omega-3 fat. The alterations of brain chemistry led to a more balanced, clear and a joyful mental state that is associated with a varied, nutrient dense diet.

A 2015 study found fermented foods including yoghurt and fermented soy products reduced social anxiety in some young people, while multiple studies found consuming healthful bacteria increased happiness in some people.

Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which is receiving increasing scrutiny due to its potential effects on mood disorders. Theanine has anti-anxiety and calming effects and may increase the production of serotonin and dopamine.

A 2017 review found that 200 mg of theanine improved self-reported relaxation and calmness while reducing tension in human trials.

Conversely, foods that interfere with its production – such as junk food and alcohol – can increase levels of anxiety and depression. This explains the finding of a survey by the Food and Mood project that changing their diet significantly improved the mental health in nearly 90 per cent of people who took part in the study.

Many people have explored various methods such as music, yoga, exercise and religion all of which are believed to affect the emotional state in one way or the other.

According to one study, some music cause positive emotion like happiness, some cause negative emotion like sadness and fear, but loud music could cause deafness.

Like herbal teas, many herbal supplements claim to reduce anxiety. However, little scientific evidence supports these claims. It is vital to work with a doctor who is knowledgeable about herbal supplements and their potential interactions with other drugs.

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