Kids Who Eat More Fruits & Veggies Have Better Mental Health, Study Shows

2519

One more reason to have your kids eat their fruits and vegetables? It’s linked to higher mental health in children (and especially secondary school children), according to a recent study published in BMJ

In secondary school children, those who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day had significantly higher well-being scores than those who didn’t eat any fruits and vegetables. And breakfast matters, too: those who ate a conventional breakfast had higher well-being scores than those who didn’t eat breakfast, or who only had an energy drink for breakfast.

“We don’t just eat for the sake of eating,” says Jordan Kridler, M.D., a pediatrician with Henry Ford Health. “We put food into our body for our physical and mental health. Certain cars need certain types of gas to function optimally, and it’s the same for us. We need plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. In fact, teens have told me that when they’ve changed their diet, they feel so much better and have more energy.”

Most experts agree that the brain is still growing until age 25. That’s one reason why it’s so important for children and young adults to eat a well-rounded diet: they need enough nutrients to develop healthily. Certain nutrients can especially aid brain health, such as:  

  • Antioxidant-packed produce, like blueberries. Antioxidants have a variety of brain benefits, including increased concentration, brain-cell function and better mental health.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in fish (especially salmon), navy beans, walnuts, spinach, flax and chia seeds, omega-3 fatty acids are great mood and memory boosters.      
  • Magnesium. Beans and legumes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax and oatmeal are great sources of magnesium, which aids brain development and learning. If you have a picky eater, you can also find cereals that are fortified with magnesium.  
  • Vitamin D. Low vitamin D has been connected to higher levels of depression. Egg yolks, dairy milk, yogurt, cheese and canned fish are great options, along with supplements, if doctor recommended.  

If you have young children, they might not be willing to sit down to a dinner of salmon with a side of broccoli. Instead, try hiding healthy ingredients into a morning smoothie: chia or flaxseeds with peanut butter, blueberries, bananas and spinach. (They won’t even taste the spinach!) And there’s truth to the theory that your body will start to crave what you give it, whether that’s fruits and vegetables or sugar and ice cream. 

“There’s a strong association with nutrition and how kids are feeling in terms of getting through their day, and helping with depression or mood,” says Dr. Kridler. “Seven hours of school is a rigorous schedule to get through, not to mention extracurricular activities, sports and homework afterward. Getting the energy from the nutrients they need to get through the day is crucial.”   

Want more advice from our experts?
Subscribe to receive a weekly email of our latest articles.

To find a pediatrician at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Jordan Kridler is a board-certified pediatrician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Royal Oak.

Categories: EatWell