It’s no secret that a person’s diet affects his or her health. Eating high-sodium foods on a daily basis, for instance, increases the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), and eating high-sugar foods on a daily basis increases the risk of obesity and diabetes. But did you know that food can also affect your mood?
Researchers from Binghamton, New York sought to investigate the correlation between food and mood in a new study. For the study, a team of researchers led by Assistant Professor of Health and Wellness Studies Lina Begdache conducted an internet-based survey that was sent to users across a variety of social media platforms. The surveys contained a myriad of questions regarding participants’ diet and mood. Participants of this stud were classified as either young adults (YAs) or matured adults (MAs).
After examining the responses, researchers concluded that participants who consumed fast food at least three times a week had higher rates of mental distress than their counterparts who consumed fast food less frequently or not at all. Of course, fast food is often riddled with saturated fat, sodium, omega-6 fatty acids and even trans fat. Researchers theorize that the combination of these compounds may negatively affect a person’s mood; thus, increasing the risk of anxiety and mental distress.
Researchers also found that participants who consumed meat at least three times a week had higher rates of mental distress than their counterparts who consumed meat less frequently or not at all. Begdache said she was “surprised” by this finding, as previous research has linked the consumption of meat to feel-good chemicals in the brain like serotonin.
On the other hand, MAs who embraced a low-carbohydrate, high-fruit diet experienced lower rates of anxiety and depression. Researchers explain that fruits are rich in free radical-fighting antioxidants that could protect the brain from oxidative stress. Free radicals are harmful chemicals to which we are exposed on a daily basis. If left unchecked, they can damage and destroy otherwise healthy cells; thus, increasing the risk of illness and disease.
“Level of brain maturation and age-related changes in brain morphology and functions may necessitate dietary adjustments for improving mental well-being,” wrote researchers in the study’s conclusion.
The bottom line is that eating the right foods can improve your mood, whereas the wrong foods can worsen your mood. If you want to keep depression, anxiety and other mental problems at bay, you should focus your diet around lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains while minimizing your intake of highly processed foods.