Much attention is paid to what a healthy lifestyle does to the physical health of children, such as good growth, stronger bones and even a lower risk of chronic diseases in adulthood. But what about their mental health? A European study finds that what children eat can have a major impact on how they feel socially and emotionally.
7000 European children (from 2 to 9 years old) from eight countries were followed for the study. Researchers measured children’s nutrition based on whether they were following dietary guidelines. Such as limiting the intake of added sugars, getting fruits and vegetables every day, eating whole grains and consuming fish 2-3 times a week. In addition, they looked at four welfare indicators: self-confidence, the relationship with their parents, mental problems and peer pressure. Two years later the same children were measured again.
It turned out that a good basic diet contributed to better emotional well-being, more self-confidence and fewer mental problems and susceptibility to peer pressure. And that regardless of the weight and economic status of the children. In addition, the more confident children still ate a healthy diet two years later.
The good relationship with the parents and the reduced susceptibility to group pressure were mainly linked to the daily eating of fruit and vegetables, and the less mental problems to the lower fat intake.
Healthy eating and the mental health of children
How does this work? The researchers have a few ideas. They think that eating fish and whole grains, for example, has a beneficial effect on psychological well-being. That nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals can have a direct positive effect on the mental health of children. Eating healthy may also have an effect on health in general, because it would make you sleep better. And sleeping well again works wonders for the emotional health of your child.
A healthy diet helps children to cope better with stress and some challenges in life. Children with good mental health are less likely to use unhealthy food to cope with their grief.
The researchers state that the study does not show a direct cause-effect relationship between diet and mental health, but that what the children eat clearly has an effect on how they feel. As we all know, children benefit from healthy eating. Do you want to know what healthy eating is?