You may already be aware that what you eat can help to prevent anxiety or depression, but new research says you should even tailor your diet depending on your age – here’s what it discovered…
1. Under 30’s Should Swerve The Fries
The new study lead by Lena Begdache, Binghampton Uni NY, found that young adults under 30 who ate fast food more than three times a week had higher levels of mental distress. Apart from the obvious presence of saturated and trans fats in fast foods, they also contain Omega 6 fatty acids – all of these can all trigger an inflammatory effect in the body, which has also been linked to anxiety and depression.
‘A higher level of antioxidants from fruit and veg lift your mood once you’re into your 30’s’
2. Over 30’s Need To Up Fruit & Veg And Reduce Carbs
Your brain has probably only matured once you get past your 30th, and the study found differences between the age groups. It seems a higher level of antioxidants from fruit and veg are required to lift your mood once you get a bit older. Foods that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system seem to have a role in anxiety too – so mainlining coffee and simple, high-GI carbs is a bad idea. Better to go for slow-release, wholemeal carbs like oatmeal, and unless your day includes a high-energy workout then you probably don’t need that extra bagel…
3. Good News For Meat Eaters
Carnivores will love this one – the study concluded that in young adults a low meat intake (defined as three times or less a week) also had a negative impact on mood. This surprised the team but it’s well known that meats such as turkey are good sources of tryptophan, which is the chemical precursor to serotonin (the brain’s happy juice). It seems frequent exercise works in tandem with this effect – so, just chowing down on beef jerky in front of the TV isn’t going to do much for your mood, or your abs.
4. Skipping Breakfast Is Still A Bad Idea
The effect of skipping breakfast is to put your body in crisis mode – this is especially bad for those of us over 30 because it has the same effect as a boatload of coffee, unhelpfully activating that sympathetic nervous system again, and triggering anxiety. Even if you’re under 30 skipping breakfast means you’re likely to start your day off with low energy, which will be hard to reverse, and make hitting the gym a big ask. The exception to this rule is if you’re doing a fasted low-intensity jog or cycle first-thing in the morning, but even then you are only postponing breakfast until immediately after the workout, rather than skipping it…
5. Supplements May Not Cut It
It’s long been suspected that antioxidants in pill form can’t be compared to the ones in fresh and frozen fruit and veg. RISING has talked about it before. Interestingly, the study looked into supplements and found they had no effect on mood – best save your readies for the grocer.
6. Find Balance With Omega 3s
Lots of healthy foods, including whole grains, seeds, nuts and poultry contain Omega 6 fatty acids. This is no bad thing, because these fatty acids are essential to your health and your body can’t make them from scratch. But it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing and as we’ve already seen, Omega 6 fatty acids can promote mood-affecting inflammation. The good news is that Omega 3 fatty acids reduce it, so you can still boost your health if you balance both of them. Add oily fish, milled flaxseed, rapeseed oil and dark green, leafy veg to your shopping list.
WHAT NEXT If the winter blues are getting to you then read about these physical mood-boosting hacks from RISING…
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
Follow the writer @mattfitnessray