Could a Vegetarian Diet Improve Your Mood?

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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  • abbie


    March 20th, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Even more proof that what you take into your body and choose to nourish it with has a HUGE impact on how you feel. Not only that but I think that we all know that it can also, with a more nutritious diet, cutting out the junk, can greatly improve your overall health and well being.Nutritionists everywhere rejoice! It’s hopefully going to start sinking in soon.

  • jon p

    jon p

    March 21st, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    When I became a vegan I thought that I would die.

    It was a choice that felt right for me but then it was so hard to give up all that meat that I had once become accustomed to in my diet.

    But with some work I have made it work for me and it is the best choice that I have ever made for my overall well being and mentality. I feel better, I have lost weight, I have more energy and don’t have that mind fog all the time that I once suffered from. It has just made a huge difference for me in many different respects and I encourage you to tyr it for at least one week and I know you will see a difference in how you feel and how you look too.

  • PeTe


    March 21st, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    ah..vegetarian diet does make me feel light and fresh..I don’t know if its a mental thing but I do feel less lethargic when i go without meat or fish for a few days..guess I can do this more often.

  • danielle


    March 25th, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    Any time that I clean up my diet and eat cleaner, I always feel better. This can be cutting the sugar, cutting out some of the red meat, or even just upping some of my exercise, this always makes me feel better. So if becoming a vegetarian is something that you have considered abd it is important for you, then I totally think that it is going to make you feel better both mentally and physically.

  • Maria Strela

    Maria Strela

    June 5th, 2017 at 12:38 AM

    Greetings from Indonesia. I am about to write mood booster food, especially to heal mental illness. I wonder what’s your take on flax seed, as what I understand so far is the Omega 3 in Flax seed is different to EPA & DHA omega 3 fatty acids in Salmon or other wild deep sea fish ? I mean, most medical reference would strongly suggest fish oil supplements or eat lots of wild deep sea fish to heal brain diseases. My blog is Thank you.

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