Children have long heard the refrain: Eat your vegetables to grow up big and strong. Cartoon characters such as Popeye showed how eating spinach could give immense power. However, a healthy diet may also make you happier, according to Australian researchers.
A small study that was carried out on a group of young adults with poor diets and moderate-to-high symptoms of depression showed that those who embraced healthier food choices reported less anxiety and much better moods within weeks, according to findings published on October 9, 2019 in the journal 'PLOS One'.
The study included 76 university students between 17 and 35 years of age. All reported eating calorific meals containing processed foods, sugar and saturated fats. They also reported feelings of sadness, decreased ability to feel pleasure and lack of motivation in the previous week.
Half of the participants added healthier items such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins like fish and olive oil to their diet and consume less processed foods. They received $60 for doing their groceries and two check-in phone calls. The others received no coaching and continued with their regular diets.
After three weeks, those who consistently ate better reported much better moods. Their scores on a scale measuring depression levels were normal and they reported less anxiety than the regular diet group, whose depression levels remained in the "moderate to high" range.
Small changes such as eating healthier foods and less of processed ones created big impacts on the psychological state of the participants. They did not feel completely deprived because they could still eat sugary drinks and fast food but in moderation.