Good food, good mood

Written by Lauren Campestre

Dietitian, Sprout Food Group

The chill of winter and minimal sunlight can dampen our spirits, but did you know your diet holds the power to boost your mood? It's true: good food equals good mood! Our diet plays a crucial role in how we feel, both physically and mentally. By nourishing your body with the right foods, you can enhance your mood, energy levels, and overall health. Two key areas to focus on for mood improvement are gut health and vitamin D intake. These elements are vital for maintaining a healthy, happy state of mind. Let’s take a closer look!

Gut health

Your gut isn't just a simple collection of organs like the stomach, intestines, and colon—it's a bustling ecosystem responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and the elimination of waste. The gut contains a microbiome comprised of trillions of bacteria essential for your well-being. Gut health isn't just about avoiding digestive issues; it's about nurturing this microbial community to keep your body functioning at its best. Supporting good gut health can be done simply through a healthy balanced diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial not only for bone health, but also for gut health. Vitamin D encourages normal gut function by maintaining the microbiome balance and protecting against harmful bacteria2. It does this by strengthening the gut lining, boosting germ-fighting proteins, and calming inflammation, which keeps your gut healthy and happy.

During winter, limited sunlight may lead to Vitamin D deficiencies, which can negatively affect your mood and overall health3. Research suggests a link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression, as this vitamin influences brain processes implicated in depressive physiology1.

How are gut health and mood connected?

Ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? That's just one example of the fascinating connection between our gut and brain. This two-way communication network means that not only does the brain influence intestinal activities like digestion, but the gut can also impact mood, cognition, and mental health. Hence, what we eat and how we live may affect our gut, which can influence our mood. Conversely, taking steps to manage our mood can positively support gut function, highlighting the powerful interplay between our mind and body.

Here are our top tips to improve mood through food:

  • Nourish your gut with fibre: Fill your plate with high-fibre foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to promote a healthy gut environment and support optimal mood and brain health.
  • Increase your water intake: Staying hydrated supports gut health by aiding digestion and promoting regular bowel movements.
  • Eat a diverse diet and include plant foods: A variety of plants provide prebiotics that nourish different gut bacteria, promoting a resilient and well-functioning gut.
  • Decrease alcohol and processed foods: These can worsen mood and gut health, causing inflammation and reducing beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Increase probiotics: Try foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kimchi, and kombucha. These probiotics contain live beneficial bacteria that strengthen your gut microbiome.
  • Sunbake your mushrooms: Like our skin, when exposed to sunlight (UV light) mushrooms create vitamin D. Five button mushrooms placed in the sun for just 10-15 minutes can generate over 100% of your daily vitamin D needs4!
  • Incorporate oily fish 2-3 times per week: Oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support both gut health and mood regulation.
  • Add in some eggs: Eggs are one of the highest dietary sources of vitamin D with two eggs containing 82% of your daily vitamin D needs. Whilst the Heart Foundation has not set a limit on egg consumption for healthy adults, a maximum of seven eggs per week is recommended for those with high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes5.

By understanding and leveraging the connection between good food and good mood, we can better navigate the winter months and maintain a positive, healthy mindset. So, as you prepare your next meal, remember that the right choices can keep you feeling great inside and out!

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References:

  1. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. (2023, September 18). Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  2. Fakhoury, H.M.A., Kvietys, P.R., AlKattan, W., Anouti, F.A., Elahi, M.A., Karras, S.N. & Grant, W.B. (2020). Vitamin D and intestinal homeostasis: barrier, microbiota, and immune modulation. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 200, 105663. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2020.105663
  3. Holick, M.F. (2004). Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80(6 suppl): 1678S-88S. 10.1093/ajcn/80.6.1678S
  4. Australian Mushroom Growers Association (2020). Vitamin D in Mushrooms. https://australianmushroomgrowers.com.au/health-benefits-of-mushrooms/vitamin-d-in-mushrooms/
  5. Heart Foundation (2020). Protein and heart health. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-living/healthy-eating/protein-and-heart-health


Posted: Jun 19 2024

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The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

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