SPOILER ALERT! ~ Foods high in sodium and trans-unsaturated fats are linked to depression, anxiety and stress ~ Fruits and vegetables are linked to lower risk of depression and anxiety . Consuming fruits and vegetables more frequently is more important that consuming high quantities. ~ Consumption of tomatoes, dark-green vegetables, berries and fruits is more strongly related to decreased symptoms of depression than other vegetables and dries fruits. ~ Diets rich in processed foods are associated with poor psychological health . Processed foods affect cognitive performance, which in turn affect psychological well-being ~ Diets high in saturated fats reduce memory function, and for example having frequent memory lapses is linked to increased stress and sadness
A body of research indicates that eating nutrient-rich foods is associated with better psychological health and reduced cognitive impairments. For example, consuming fruits and vegetables is linked with reduced risk of depression, stress and anxiety. Additionally, a recent study suggests that frequency of consumption of those fresh food items may be more important than quantity of consumption.
Consumption of Fruits &Veggies Versus Processed foods
There is evidence that consumption of fruits and savory snacks (i.e., processed foods high in sodium content like chips and fast foods) could be a potential target for improving psychological health.
Particularly, one study reports that consumption of trans-unsaturated fats commonly found in processed foods is related to a high risk of depression years later. In addition, increasing the frequency of snack foods consumption is also associated with increased stress. Furthermore, consuming savory snacks (e.g., chips, fast foods, etc…) not sweet snacks (e.g., biscuits, cakes, chocolates, etc…) coincides with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety.
By contrast, increased frequency of fruits and vegetables consumption is linked to lower depression. For example, a recent study shows that increased intakes of tomatoes, dark-green vegetables, berries and fruits are more strongly related to decreased symptoms of depression than other vegetables and dries fruits.
Processed Foods Associated with Cognitive Deficits
It has been proposed that processed foods negatively affect psychological health because of its impact on cognitive health. Specifically, foods that are high in caloric contents and low in micronutrients, antioxidants and fiber are believed to reduce optimal brain function by affecting neurotransmitter regulation (i.e., neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of the brain) and causing inflammation.
For example, intake of fruits and vegetables has been shown to improve cognition (i.e., related to thinking, attention, etc…), while saturated fats and sugar decrease cognitive performance. Notably, there is one area of cognition that is particularly affected by foods and that is memory. Indeed, there is indication that memory changes such as memory lapse have been induced by a particular diet. For example, animal studies report that diets high in saturated fats reduce memory function. Frequent memory errors have been linked to increased stress and sadness, which in turn further impacts psychological well-being. Thus, foods have a direct impact on mental health and well-being.
Tuck NJ, Farrow C, Thomas JM. Frequency of fruit consumption and savoury snacking predict psychological health; selective mediation via cognitive failures. Br J Nutr. 2022 May 26:1-26. doi: 10.1017/S0007114522001660. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35616008.