Junk food linked to varying levels of psychological distress

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A healthy diet can have benefits for mental health

The benefits of eating healthy seem to be endless. As researchers explore the various ways fruits and vegetables improve more than just our physical health, it could be more important than ever for consumers to swap out junk food for healthier options.

Researchers have recently found that consumers who follow unhealthy diets report struggles with mental health when compared with those who ate healthier.

“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavioral medicine,” said researcher Jim E. Banta. “Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction.”

Staying healthy

The researchers utilized California’s Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to better understand the relationship between junk food and mental health.

They evaluated responses from over 240,000 survey participants across a 10-year period, learning about each participant’s regular diet and other outside factors, including age, education, income, and marital status.

The researchers found that roughly 17 percent of participants reported mental health issues of varying degrees. Looking solely at diet and mental health, the participants who consumed more fruits and vegetables were less likely to report any kind of psychological distress, whereas those who regularly consumed fast food and soda were more likely to have issues with mental health.

Banta and his team hope that this research helps provide more comprehensive treatment options for adults of all ages struggling with mental health issues.

Resisting junk food can be difficult

For those who eat junk food on a regular basis, it may not be that easy to quit the habit.

Researchers recently found that trying to swap junk food out for healthier options can leave consumers with withdrawal symptoms similar to what addicts experience when trying to stop using drugs.

The study reports that participants felt irritable, tired, and sad when first giving up junk food, but hope isn’t that far off. The first week can be difficult, but after those initial seven days, experts say symptoms subside.

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