Meat, fish, and poultry are high in fatty acids and proteins that serve numerous physiological and biological functions. However, vegetarians who do not incorporate meats and fish into their diet are able to nourish their bodies through a plant-based diet that provides high amounts of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutritional elements. Diet plays a significant role in mental health, as well. Increasing fish oil, specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid, has been shown to improve mood. Some research has suggested that people who eliminate meat and poultry and only consume fish and plant-based foods have better moods and less depression than omnivores. However, this theory has not been fully substantiated.
Bonnie L. Beezhold of the Nutrition Department at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois recently conducted a study comparing the effects of various diets on mood. Beezhold recruited 39 participants and divided them into three groups: one that ate meat, poultry and fish (OMN); one that ate only fish and vegetables (FISH), and one that consumed a vegetarian only diet (VEG). She assessed their moods at the beginning of the study period and again two weeks after the study began. The participants also kept a diary of their food intake and moods.
Beezhold found that the OMN had the highest levels of depressed mood while the VEG participants had the lowest levels of depressed moods. The FISH group, which Beezhold thought might have a slightly better mood than OMN, did not. She believes that even though the FISH participants had the mood boosting element of omega fatty acids, they did not have the same level of anti-inflammatory antioxidants in their diet that the VEG participants did. These antioxidants act as a protective mechanism from depression and other negative mental health conditions. Although this research did not consider weight as a contributing factor on mood, future research should examine how weight influences mood in each of these diets. Beezhold believes that her research shows that moderating fish, poultry, and meat intake could improve moods in the short-term. “Exploring this phenomenon further is warranted, as reductions in dietary meat, fish, and poultry would not only reduce health risks but could benefit the environment as well,” said Beezhold.
Beezhold, Bonnie L., and Carol S. Johnston. (2013). Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal 11.1 (2012): 9-. ProQuest Research Library. Web.
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