When the substance of food culture is composed of highly processed goods and advertisements of snacks, alcohol and soda as avenues of happiness, the poor food choices that arise are unsurprising. However, sugar-laden and high-fat consumption are associated with rising mortality rates, increased prevalence of chronic diseases, and soaring rates of addiction and mental health crises.
In a first of its kind study, Francis et al randomly assigned 76 young adults to either eat a healthy Mediterranean diet, that is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, and lean meat, or to continue eating a diet high in processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars. After a brief educational video and a $60 incentive to purchase Mediterranean foods, the Med diet group reported decreasing their intake of refined sugar and saturated fat. After only three weeks, the Med diet group showed significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms. On the other hand, young adults in the control group, who consumed a diet high in processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars, experienced no change in depression symptoms.
With diet as a modifiable risk factor for depression, education on healthy eating habits, diet changes, and interventions are more important than ever as we face a world of increased stress and anxiety from the pandemic and saturation with social media and virtual technology. In the study, the diet intervention consisted of vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, wholegrain cereals, protein from poultry to eggs and legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon. In addition to following a Mediterranean style diet, the recommendations provided in this study included avoiding foods that come in a package with multiple ingredients, foods with more than 10g sugar per 100g, soft drinks, chocolates, sweets, and fried take away foods.
There is no doubt that what we eat affects us from our head to toe. Therefore, eating healthy, whole foods, is a promising way to improve our mood and the quality of our life.
By: Helena Zhang, BS and Marily Oppezzo, PhD, MS
- Francis HM, Stevenson RJ, Chambers JR, Gupta D, Newey B, Lim CK. A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults – A randomised controlled trial. PLoS One. 2019 Oct 9;14(10):e0222768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222768. PMID: 31596866; PMCID: PMC6784975.