It is well documented that several portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day are essential for maintaining a healthy physical body, The majority of us are well versed in the multitude of physical benefits these foods bring to our diet; from lowering the risk of potential heart attack, stroke and cancers to reducing high blood pressure and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
But did you also know that a healthy dose of fruit and vegetables has also been linked to an increase in mental well being? A new study just published by the “British Medical Journal” (BMJ) strongly suggests there is a relationship between adequate daily servings of fresh fruit and vegetables (in the recommended quantities) and increased mental health.
The study which was carried out at the Univerity of Warwick in the UK, “found that “33.5 percent of respondents with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 percent who ate less than one portion”. Of those who ate 3 potions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily 31.4 percent were diagnosed as having a high state of mental health.
Dr Stranges who led the research project stated, “The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being.”.
In contrast a BBC report released in August 2014 suggests a possible link between junk food and depression. A team of researchers at Deakin University in Australia are running trials on patients to determine if their depression can be significantly reduced or even totally eliminated by changing to a healthier diet.
Felice Jacka who is leading the team at Deakin believes that a series of striking discoveries over the past few years has pointed to fat and and sugar (both major ingredients of junk food) as being culpable for a cascade of reactions in the brain which could eventually lead to depression.
Beginning in March 2014 through to early April of the same year an online survey was jointly conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. After analyzing over 2,500 adults it was found that of those surveyed 49% confirmed they had experienced a major stressful event over the past year. At the highest end of the spectrum 27% were illness and disease related, while at the lower end 6% cited problems with personal relationships.
The idea that a simple change in diet could have such a positive affect not only on the physical but also mental health; all without the dangerous side effects of costly drugs is an endearing one. However , as with most things in life putting the theory into practice usually tends to be infinitely more difficult or complex, In real world situations where we deal with busy schedules that stress us out we find it difficult to resist strong cravings and thus increase the probability of making bad food choices, hence perpetuating the vicious cycle. Secondly in addition to the high fat and sugar content, junk food contains an array of other additives which can make our junk food habits as hard to break away from as a narcotic abuse.
In view of this the author offers several useful tips the reader can leverage in order to wean themselves off of dangerous junk food and thus begin the path to a higher level of physical and mental health.
Start by gradually decreasing your consumption of junk food each week
Incorporate salad into your diet at least two times per week
Try juicing vegetables and fruits together such as apple and carrot for an instant shot of essential vitamins, minerals and powerful anti-oxidants
Begin replacing one meat based meal per week with a vegetarian alternative
Look for other ways to get more vegetables each day e.g buy cherry or plum tomatoes or vegetable crudites to snack on (hint: Go easy on the dippings).
Look for vegetarian substitutes of classic favorites e.g. vegetarian lasagna
Although you will find it extremely difficult the first few weeks, don’t give up but stick with it, if you give in to your cravings that’s alright just get back up dust yourself off and start again. Stick with it and eventually you will start to notice themany benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables into your diet as you start to improve both physically and mentally.