It's official! Research shows food is good for our wellbeing!

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Now there's food for thought!

Foodies rejoice – science backs the fact that food actually does make us feel good! A study looked at the link between food and mental health across younger and older adults. And the results showed that eating certain types of food made a difference in our mood and wellbeing.

The link between food and mental health changes with age

food and mental health

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Research from Binghamton University, New York, indicates that our diets affect our mental health at different ages in our lives.

Assistant professor Lina Begdache led a team of researchers to look at which food types affects our mood, and at what age does these effects happen.

Over 600 people were surveyed through a giant online Food-Mood Questionnaire.

The data revealed that young adults (aged 18-29) seemed to rely on meat, whereas mature adults (aged 30 and over) leaned more towards eating fruit.

Eating meat led to better mood in young adults because of the chemicals dopamine and serotonin increase. These are typically associated with positive wellbeing. And the data also revealed that if young adults didn’t exercise and eat meat at least three times a week, they were more vulnerable to experiencing mental distress. But not all meat is good; fast food was found to be linked with depression and anxiety.

“We found out that food that increases brain chemicals, certain brain chemicals, will maintain mental well-being versus those who do not have those kind of food,” said Ms Begdache.

This was also true for mature adults but for a different reason. Fruits contained more antioxidants which lead to better health. But what’s more interesting is that they leave out foods in their diet that might trigger symptoms of anxiety. This includes coffee and food items with a high glycemic index.

“High glycemic food concerning pasta, rice, like the white food, the white starch, also was linked to more mental distress in mature adults,” Ms Begdache explained.

“With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases. Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress,” Ms Begdache added.

A balanced diet can do wonders for your mind and body

food and mental health

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As we grow older, our bodies aren’t as good at regulating blood sugar compared to when we are in our younger days. So it’s important we’re aware of what we are eating as we gracefully age!

But that doesn’t mean we can live recklessly and eat whatever we want. Taking care of our bodies now will have so much impact on promoting positive wellbeing.

Ms Begdache recommends eating fruits and vegetables at all ages. In fact, countries around the world encourage people to have a colourful plate so that there’s a decent spread of food! Generally, try to eat fewer grains and meat, and include more vegetables and fruit to have balanced nutrition.

Written by

Vinnie Wong