Throughout the hustle and bustle of life, from education to employment and finding a personal life in the mix, life asks us constantly what we prioritise. Even if we remember to improve our physical health, mental health may often be at the back of our minds at best. Obviously many already interface directly with mental health issues, personally or with a loved one, on a day-to-day basis. Physical exercise and meditation are among many accessible approaches to boost mental health and elevate mood . But the evidence is also clear that what we eat plays a strong role in our emotions, mental health and other brain related health issues.
Protect the Children. The quality of the food we eat impacts us in full force from as early on as our childhoods. Persistently poor diet choices, such as opting for classic “fast foods”, result in poor mental health scores in 14-year olds (testing for withdrawal, anxiety, depression and more in the 1,860 teenagers studied) . But surprisingly, eating meat was the most damaging food choice as far as to the mental health of these teenagers . Although not as harmful as a drug habit is to mental health , the diet of our young people is relatively easier to control.
Similar observations were made of over 5,000 Chinese 11–16 year-olds . Scientists found that higher intakes of high-calorie/preserved snacks or meat were each associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression . Far from “cherry-picking” these studies, a review of several diet and mental health studies clearly shows that good diet choices are statistically linked to protecting the mental health of children and teens .
Beware of the Inflammatory Diet. The gut-brain axis, which is the part of the nervous system that links the two organs, is thought to be sensitive to inflammatory signals in large part through microbes in the gut . This sensitivity actually contributes in many ways to anxiety and depression . An omnivorous diet is more likely to have high levels of pro-inflammatory compounds such as arachidonic acid  and bacterial endotoxins . The current research shows that the plant-based diet is the best for maintaining a healthy, anti-inflammatory gut microbe profile.