- Research suggests that people who eat fast food and refined carbohydrates tend to have poorer mental health.
- This is especially true for women, who seem to experience more mental side effects from a poor diet.
- But exercise can help increase mood and can mitigate the negative effects of unhealthy foods.
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What you eat can make a big difference in your diet mental health, no matter which site, the search shows.
Researchers at Binghamton University in New York looked at 322 women and 322 men, aged 30 or older, using surveys to collect data on their dietary habits, physical activity and mood patterns.
They found that eating foods such as nuts, fish and leafy greens were associated with a more positive mood.
In contrast, eating fast food and skipping breakfast was linked to poor mood. So were foods with a high glycemic index, which quickly raise blood sugar, as well refined carbohydrates such as chips, white bread, and sugary foods.
However, women who had these habits reported significantly more negative effects than men, according to Lina Begdache, lead author and assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University. Women were even more likely to report side effects from unhealthy foods even if they ate an otherwise healthy diet.
“Interestingly, we found that for unhealthy dietary patterns, the level of mental anxiety was higher in women than in men, which confirmed that women are more susceptible to unhealthy eating than men,” she said. said Begdache in a press release.
One research caveat: the study looked at the correlation, not the causality, so it’s not clear if the foods caused mood changes. It may be, for example, that happier people are more likely to make healthier choices, while anxious or depressed people tend to reach for comfort, but are less healthy.
Exercise could help compensate for the mental side effects of an unhealthy diet
Researchers have also found that exercise was a major factor in the psychological health of the participants. Both men and women who have exercised, even a little, tend to have better mental health than their more sedentary peers.
This was true even when eating unhealthy foods. This suggests that exercise could alleviate the psychological side effects of eating junk food, particularly if work regularly.
The next step is for researchers to learn more about how diet, exercise and mood are all intertwined.
For now, a wealth of previous research suggests that working out is great for both mental health and physical health.