De-stress your food

Research suggests that what we feed our students has a profound effect on their mental health, says David Russell

By Professor David Russell, Founder and Chairman of the Russell Partnership.

The new semester is often accompanied by feelings of excitement, anticipation and, most notably, anxiety. Students, namely ‘freshers’, are thrust into an overwhelmingly diverse new world which understandably triggers stress, concern and apprehension. Aside from traditional strategies such as social provision and academic guidance, are there alternative methods we can offer to support students through their first semester at University? Well, we think so.

Cutting-edge research suggests that what we feed our students has a profound effect on their mental health, most notably their anxiety levels. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined depression and anxiety in over 1,000 women throughout a period of 10 years. Women who consumed a diet of fast and processed foods, refined grains, sweets and alcohol were more likely to be depressed or anxious than those who ate a healthier diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and fish. Furthermore, researchers from McMaster University in Canada have suggested a possible link between healthful gut bacteria/microbiome and lower levels of anxiety.

We have an opportunity to positively impact on our students’ physical, academic and mental health – all by substituting processed foods for natural, healthful goodness.’

So, how do we capture this information and utilise it for our students’ benefit? By eliminating foods within university catering outlets that are thought to deplete beneficial gut bacteria and spike blood sugar levels (high sugar processed foods, caffeine, alcohol and additives) and replacing them with nourishing produce that delivers prebiotic functions and positively influences the microbiome (fresh fruits, vegetables and alternative fermented foods such as tempeh, kombucha and kimchee).

And that’s not it – it is well documented that a nutrient dense diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds aids concentration, sustains energy and helps support a healthy weight. We have an opportunity to positively impact on our students’ physical, academic and mental health – all by substituting processed foods for natural, healthful goodness. This is easier than we ever thought possible… so, will you take the first step in revolutionising student life?

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