Written by Professor Christopher Palmer and Dr Ebru Aydar

Extract from "The Vibrant Dancers book of Nutritional guidance"

Dance is a form of artistic expression in a duality of physical movement and emotions.  This is difficult to achieve if your mind is full of negative emotions and you have low mood.  Your emotions are affected by many factors but one important one is nutrition.  In a study investigating the consumption of fruits, vegetables, sweets and chips, higher average scores for wellbeing, curiosity and creativity were found for those consuming healthier diet choices over a 13-day period [Conner et al., 2015].  The exact mechanism of this increase in creativity is not fully understood but some nutrients may be key players in this process.  For example, vitamin C is essential to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.  Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that are necessary for communication between nerve cells.  Dopamine is important for reward and motivation, for example feeling good when you complete a task.  Note that it is not just citrus fruit that contains vitamin C but also strawberries, mango, kiwis, peppers, and broccoli, even Brussel sprouts!  Another study found that tyrosine—found in seaweed, bananas, and almonds, among other foods—has been shown to have impressive effects on deep thinking and creative operations [Colzato et al., 2015].  Additionally, B vitamins can affect your neurological systems providing feelings of vitality.  Another neurotransmitter that regulates mood is serotonin.  Importantly, approximately 95 per cent of your serotonin is synthesized by your gastrointestinal tract which is lined by millions of nerve cells.   This gut-brain axis may be one mechanism of how what you eat affects your emotions.  Your gut health is influenced by the billions of beneficial bacteria which co-exist in your intestines which act by providing nutrients, preventing inflammation, protect against toxins and improve absorption of nutrients.    These beneficial bacteria can be encouraged by eating probiotic foods.  Finally, while moderate amounts of stress are good for the creative process, high stress is detrimental.  Some foods that may help to keep stress hormone levels stable include [Kushnier, 2019]. 

  • Dark chocolate.
  • Bananas and pears.
  • Black or green tea.
  • Whole-grain carbohydrates
  • Probiotics in food such as yoghurt.
  • Probiotics in foods containing soluble fibre.

More work is needed in this area as everybody is different and foods can vary significantly in their chemical composition.  It is recommended for dancers to keep a food diary to investigate which foods may be beneficial to themselves. 

Conner, T. S. et al. (2015) ‘On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater  flourishing in daily life.’, British journal of health psychology, 20(2), pp. 413–427. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12113. 

Colzato, L. S., de Haan, A. M. and Hommel, B. (2015) ‘Food for creativity: tyrosine promotes deep thinking.’, Psychological research, 79(5), pp. 709–714. doi: 10.1007/s00426-014-0610-4. 

Jennifer, K. (2019) 8 foods that help reduce stress, cooking light. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322652#takeaway.

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