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Prioritize Mental Health Through Food Choices

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Pledge to take steps to improve your diet and mental health, and share your commitment with others!


Do you find comfort in indulging in a plate of French fries? You may be putting your wellbeing at risk.

A recent study shows that this comfort food could be causing more harm than good for your mental health. A research team in Hangzhou, China, evaluated 140,728 people over 11.3 years and found that frequent consumption of fried foods, especially fried potatoes, was linked to a 12% higher risk of anxiety and a 7% higher risk of depression compared to those who did not eat fried foods1.

The link between fried foods and poor mental health is more pronounced among young men and younger consumers2. While the researchers suggest that acrylamide, a chemical formed during the frying process, is to blame for the higher risk of anxiety and depression3.

In a separate study, researchers exposed zebrafish to acrylamide and found that long-term exposure had caused the fish to dwell in dark zones within the tank, a common sign of a higher anxiety level in the fish. The zebrafish had also displayed a reduced ability to explore their tanks and socialize. This study suggests that frequent consumption of acrylamide commonly found in fried food could have a negative effect on mental health4.

Reducing fried foods consumption can be achieved by adopting healthier cooking methods such as grilling, baking, or steaming, which help retain the nutritional content of foods and prevent the formation of harmful compounds that are produced during frying5.

As depression and anxiety rates continue to increase worldwide, it is important to consider the impact that our dietary habits could have on our mental health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing consumption of fried foods may be helpful for mental health as well as overall health6.

You can make simple changes to your diet that can have a significant impact on your mental health. Start by incorporating whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are rich in essential nutrients and fiber, and help improve mood and cognitive function7. Include lean proteins such as poultry, fish, and legumes, which provide essential amino acids that support the production of neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood and behavior8. Consume healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and seeds, which contain omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to lower rates of depression and anxiety9.

In addition to choosing nutrient-dense foods, it is important to pay attention to portion sizes and limit consumption of foods high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. These types of foods can increase the risk of chronic diseases and contribute to weight gain10.

You can take action to improve your mental health today. Join the pledge to reduce your consumption of fried foods and maintain a healthy diet that supports your mental health!

More on this issue:

  1. Anli Wang, Xuzhi Wan, Pan Zhuang, Wei Jia, Yang Ao, Xiaohui Liu, Yimei Tian, Li Zhu, Yingyu Huang, Jianxin Yao, Binjie Wang, Yuanzhao Wu, Zhongshi Xu, Jiye Wang, Weixuan Yao, Jingjing Jiao, Yu Zhang, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (24 April 2023), "High fried food consumption impacts anxiety and depression due to lipid metabolism disturbance and neuroinflammation."
  2. Joseph Firth, James E Gangwisch, Alessandra Borisini, Robyn E Wootton, Emeran A Mayer, The BMJ (29 June 2020), "Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?"
  3. Donald S Mottram, Bronislaw L Wedzicha, Andrew T Dodson, Nature (3 October 2002), "Acrylamide is formed in the Maillard reaction."
  4. Jong-Su Park, Palas Samanta, Sangwoo Lee, Jieon Lee, Jae-Woo Cho, Hang-Suk Chun, Seokjoo Yoon, and Woo-Keun Kim, International Journal of Molecular Sciences (April 2021), "Developmental and Neurotoxicity of Acrylamide to Zebrafish."
  5. Mayo Clinic (2023), "Nutrition and healthy eating Print."
  6. Alison Brunier, Carla Drysdale, World Health Organization (2 March 2022), "COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide."
  7. R. Morgan Griffin, WebMD (12 May 2009), "The Benefits of Healthy Whole Foods."
  8. Nutritious Life, "Lean Protein 101: Why We Need It and the 10 Best Sources for It."
  9. Poonam Sachdev, WebMD (22 February 2022), "Slideshow: Healthy-Fat Foods."
  10. National Heart Blood and Lung Institute (2 March 2016), "New dietary guidelines urge Americans to eat less added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium."
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The Pledge:

I pledge to prioritize my mental health by making healthy choices, especially when it comes to food. I recognize that what I eat can impact my mental well-being, and I am committed to making choices that nourish my body and mind. Through this pledge, I aim to maintain good mental health and lead a healthy life.

The link between unhealthy foods and poor mental health is well-established. Research has shown that a diet high in processed and sugary foods can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Unhealthy diets can also contribute to inflammation in the brain, which can further exacerbate mental health issues.

To maintain good mental health through healthy choices, I pledge to:

  1. Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  2. Limit my intake of processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats.
  3. Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks.
  4. Incorporate foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, into my diet.
  5. Make time for regular exercise, as physical activity is also essential for good mental health.

By taking these actions and sharing my commitment with others online and off, I know that I am prioritizing my mental health and setting myself up for a healthy life. I pledge to continue to make these healthy choices and to prioritize my well-being above all else.

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