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March 23, 2012 at 10:09 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Study Shows that a Vegetarian Diet Makes You Happier and Less Stressed

By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This Author

Welcome back to FitChatter! This week in the news, a new study has confirmed what many herbivores have long suspected: eating a vegetarian diet could actually make you happier!

Vegetarians of the world, rejoice – or, rather, keep rejoicing. A new study published in Nutrition Journal shows that eating a vegetarian diet can make you feel happier and less stressed.

No, this has nothing to do with just feeling good about your food choices – it’s all about fatty acids. Meat and fish are very high in arachidonic acid (AA), a source of omega-6 fatty acids which, according to the Huffington Post, can cause brain changes that disturb your mood. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, have been shown to possess a wealth of health benefits. To offset the negative effects of AA, most experts recommend an omega-6/omega-3 intake ratio of 4:1.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Fish are super high in omega-3s, so wouldn’t a pescetarian diet be best?

Well, that’s what the researchers thought, too. Fish contain high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (say that ten times fast!) – omega-3s that, in theory, combat the harmful AA. But another recent study showed that the EDA and DHA didn’t have the mood benefits one might expect. That research showed that “omnivores [including those who eat fish] reported significantly worse mood than vegetarians despite higher intakes of EPA and DHA.”

This latest study confirmed those findings. A group of omnivores was divided into three sub-groups:

  • one whose diet included meat, fish, and poultry
  • one whose diet included fish 3-4 times weekly but no meat or poultry
  • one who ate a vegetarian diet

Because of the diets, the vegetarian group naturally had a lower intake of all omega fatty acids (both harmful and beneficial) and the fish group greatly increased their intakes of beneficial EPA and DHA. At the beginning and end of the study, the participants completed the Profile of Mood States questionnaire and the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales.

The results?

The meat group saw no change in their mood; likewise, the fish group – despite all those healthy omega-3s – remained the same. The vegetarian group, however, not only saw positive changes in their mood – the researchers report that in many cases these changes were “significant.”

As this is only one study (well, two if you count the earlier study referenced by the authors), further research is needed – but the results could be important. As the study concludes: “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.”

And that’s a change you can truly feel happy about.

So if you’re feeling grumpy, maybe you should rethink that steak and start looking for these vegetarian sources of healthy omega-3s:

  • Flax seeds
  • Cauliflower (who knew?)
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Purslane

What do you think of this study? Have you ever noticed a change in mood after eating a meatless meal – or would you try going vegetarian to lift your mood?

[Source 1, Source 2]

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1 Comment

  • I've been a vegetarian for 30 years and I am glad to know it's not making me stressed. Haven't chia seeds yet, but eager to do so

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