New research: A nutritious diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, beneficial to children’s mental health. This is what researchers from the University of Eastern England recently claimed.

To this end, the research team analyzed data from a health and well-being survey of 9,000 students from 50 primary and secondary schools across the UK, in a first-of-its-kind study examining the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and mental well-being among schoolchildren. Participants self-reported their diet and participated in tests that assessed their mental well-being through factors such as cheerfulness, calmness, and interpersonal relationships. In addition, the researchers took into account other factors that may influence – such as negative childhood experiences and their home environment.

The findings, recently published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, revealed that those with a healthier diet, who consumed five or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables – had better mental health. Among high school students, higher fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with higher scores on mental well-being tests, with those who ate five servings a day being about 8% higher than those who did not eat at all. Elementary students who ate a conventional breakfast, which included cereal, toast or egg, were rated higher in mental well-being scores, compared to those who ate only a snack or drink, or those who did not eat at all.

The research team argued that the alarming data may affect not only the academic performance in the school but also the growth and physical development of the children. Therefore, they propose to develop public health strategies and policies in the school, which will ensure a quality diet available to all children, before and during school – “to optimize their mental well-being and realize their full potential.”

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