A healthy diet is linked to good mental health, whatever your age and background, research finds.
People who avoid unhealthy foods — like fried and processed foods — have fewer symptoms of psychological distress.
Only around one-in-ten people in the US eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.
The recommended amount in the US is 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables.
In contrast, a poor diet is linked to poor mental health: sugar and processed grain are thought to be among the main culprits.
Dr Jim E. Banta, the study’s first author, said:
“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavorial medicine.
Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health.
More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction.”
The study included data from over 240,000 people in California, which was collected across ten years.
The results revealed that 13% of people experienced moderate psychological distress, with 4% in severe psychological distress.
The study’s authors conclude that their study is…
“…additional evidence that public policy and clinical practice should more explicitly aim to improve diet quality among those struggling with mental health.[…]
dietary interventions for people with mental illness should especially target young adults, those with less than 12 years of education, and obese individuals.”
A previous study found that the more fruit and vegetables people eat, the better their state of mind.
Eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables per day is enough to measurably improve mental well-being.
Just one portion has the same positive effect as going for a walk on 8 extra days a month.
The study was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Banta et al., 2019).