A recent study published in the Nutrition Journal reports that eschewing animal products in favor of plant-based foods helps improve mood in just a few weeks. Research evidence has frequently linked long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, to mood- a substance primarily found in fish and shellfish. Conversely, meat and poultry are high in arachidonic acid (AA), a potentially neuroinflammatory long-chain omega-6 fatty acid.
Those who consume large amounts of meat and poultry and low amounts of fish, have been known to be at increased risk of depression and those with the diets rich in fish and low in meat and poultry have been linked to a lower risk of depression. In every individual on the vegetarian plan, stress and anxiety scores decreased after the two weeks, indicative that those who eliminate meat, fish and poultry may be better able to cope with mental stress. Vegetarians report significantly better moods than non-vegetarians.
The results may be due to increased antioxidant consumption on the vegetarian plan leading to a reduction in oxidative stress on the brain. These findings are fascinating and while we might not completely understand the mechanisms involved in why a vegetarian diet likely leads to enhanced mood, the results are certainly worth pondering. I know I feel good as I finish off my huge salad or green smoothie.