16 DECEMBER 2018


Awareness of the benefits of adopting a vegetarian diet is increasing.  After all, who doesn’t want to feel healthy and preserve the environment?

The physical advantages of following a vegetarian diet can include lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease.  A vegetarian diet is a complete diet, associated with good consumption of vitamins C and E, folic acid, magnesium, unsaturated fat and phytochemicals. 

The physical health of vegetarians and vegans has been widely reported.  With the current focus on mental health, it might be worth noting the results of studies showing vegetarian and vegan diets to be associated with people feeling calmer and happier.

A 2015 study, reported by the US Library of Medicine, tested anxiety levels in participants from a broad geographical and age range.  The results indicated lower anxiety rates among vegetarians than omnivores – and even lower in vegans.

There’s plenty of research to be done in this area but studies are pointing towards a lifting of the mood associated with eating a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and plant-based oils.

In a post on the website, Forks Over Knives, blogger Karl Hoppner shared his story of recovering from four years of depression using a plant-based diet.

Hoppner says his work was suffering, he was sleeping a lot, eating fast food and smoking marijuana to try to cope with his depression.

“Months would go by where I could not get myself out of bed and my lifestyle habits were threatening my health,” he says. “I tried many different approaches to dealing with my mental health, spending hours in talk therapy and taking many prescription medications. Nothing seemed to work.” 

While listening to a podcast about the benefits of a plant-based diet, he says he experienced a “ray of hope.”

“I decided to try a vegan diet along with moderate exercise for four days, and if it did not work I would stop.”

He didn’t stop.  He says he began to feel better immediately and as he continued with his plant-based diet, his mental and physical health improved.  He was motivated to change other aspects of his lifestyle, took up yoga and began training for an Ironman triathlon, which he completed in 2016.  He says the change to a vegan diet “literally saved my life.”

That’s just one man’s story and I’m no doctor.  A vegan diet is not a proven cure for depression and I’m not suggesting anyone who suffers from depression simply isn’t eating right.  There are vegans and vegetarians who suffer from depression and require therapy or medication.

However, tweaking our diets to make them healthier and ensure we’re getting adequate nutrition can be helpful.  There’s increasing evidence demonstrating that plants are powerful tools to help us improve our physical and mental health.

I, for one, am looking forward to more studies showing how a plant-based diet can enhance our mood.