Are Vegetarians Happier People?

New research is adding fuel to the fire when it comes to the benefits of going vegetarian, it may improve your mood! With nearly in the U.S. having some sort of mood disorder, looking for natural ways to alleviate depressive symptoms is certainly compelling. Omega-3 is the mood-lifting fatty acid our brains love. Typically, you get your omega-3s from eating fish. It would seem then that vegetarians, would be more prone to moodiness. However, researchers found the opposite.

The researchers hypothesized that short-chain omega-3 fatty acids, such as linolenic acid and linoleic acid present in high quantities in the vegetarian diet, may compensate for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. This could in part be why  vegetarians also have the same level of mental health as compared to the fish-eating population.

The study asked residents of the Southwestern region of the United States about their mood. In general, the vegetarians reported better moods than their meat (and fish) eating counterparts.  As we’ve previously reported, depressive symptoms seem to be alleviated by increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake, commonly found in fish.  So the researchers also looked at the intake of that nutrient in both groups.  Unsurprisingly, they found that the vegetarians had far lower average intake of omega-3s (since they don”t eat fish). Surprisingly though, the vegetarians were still in better moods. This study had only 138 participants, which is very small; larger studies need to be performed. However, these results are in agreement with lots of other research, which gives the study more credibility.

We don’t only get omega-3 fatty acids from fish (or fish oil supplements), and this may be what drove the results of this study.  There are several kinds of omega-3 fatty acids. The long chain versions (EPA and DHA) are found in fish (especially sardines, salmon, and halibut), while the short chain version (ALA) has plant food sources (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, perilla seed oil and flaxseed oil).  All varieties of omega-3 fatty acids appear to have mental health benefits.

Want some more information on how diet can improve your mood? Look here for a comprehensive list of foods to include in your diet, as well as here for how to “shop the perimeter”.

 

 

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