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Game show host: Welcome back to Mental Health Research Jeopardy. Today’s theme is mental health and diet. Let’s jump right in.

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One study showed that WHO? may need a larger range of nutrients to support mental health and positive mood compared to their counterpart.

Mom: What is women?

Game show host: Yes, what women eat seems to be crucial to their mental well-being, according to a study. But the same association was not found in men. However, diet is important for both men and women. 

Next question.

Another study showed that men who consumed over 67 grams of sugar daily from sugary foods and drinks were 23% more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and other common mental disorders after HOW MANY? years.

Dad: What is never, of course!

Game show host: AAAAAND, sorry! It is actually 5 years. The same study showed that anxiety, depression and the other mental health disorders were not causing the high sugar intake!

Moving on, different foods are needed for optimal mental health at different ages as well! 

Those of age 30 and older benefitted more from eating fruit and breakfast, as well as skipping WHAT?

Those of age 30 and older benefitted more from eating fruit and breakfast, as well as skipping WHAT? and foods high in sugar.

Mom: Though it pains me to say it… What is coffee?

Game show host: Correct. And also correct.

Laughter from the audience.

Game show host: Mental distress in adults (age 30 and older) was related to caffeinated coffee consumption and inversely associated with low fruit consumption and skipping breakfast.

Moving on to the next question.

When older adults at risk of developing THIS MENTAL ILLNESS received nutrition counseling and help with meal planning, they had fewer episodes of it.

Grandpa: What is depression?

Game show host: Correct! Older adults receiving dietary support demonstrated a significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to a control group.

Moving on.

Regardless of gender, age, marital status, or income, poor diet is linked with poor mental health. Specifically, a high-sugar diet is linked to WHAT mental illness?

Mom: What is everything?

Game show host: Well, you may be correct. But this study showed that consuming large amounts of sugar is linked to bipolar disorder.

Drum roll and next question!

One study of people living with depression showed those who ate more fruit, veggies fish, and legumes improved almost 33% compared to only an 8% improvement if they ate lots of WHAT?

Dad: What is junk food?

Game show host: Correct. A long-term study showed that eating fast foods like hot dogs, pizza, burgers, cupcakes, croissants, and donuts is, in fact, linked to depression. And not just a slight increase.

People who ate nearly 42 grams per day of fast food and baked goods had an associated risk for depression of WHAT PERCENT compared to those who ate 28 grams/day or less of these junk foods.

Woman: What is 40%?

Game show host: Yes. They showed a 40% increase for depression. In fact, the more they ate, the higher their risk!

Next ques-ti-on!

Our body has a “happy molecule,” a neurotransmitter that, among other things, contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. What is the name of this molecule?

Dad: Oh! I know this. It’s on the tip of my tongue. What is sero- -- what is serati ---? Uggghhh. What is a smiling molecule?

Game show host: So, so close! It is serotonin.

And speaking of serotonin, about 95% of it is found in our WHAT?

Grandpa: What is my intestinal tract?

Game show host: That is correct! 

Moving on…

Twenty-two different studies have shown that people who follow THIS diet – eating foods like legumes, fish, fruits, veggies, and using olive oil- have a reduced risk for depression and cognitive impairment.

Woman: What is Mediterranean?

Game show host: Yes. Those foods are high in nutrients critical to mental health. Nutrients like...

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Essential amino acids
  • Vitamin B12, folate
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Iron

Speaking of nutrient rich foods, there are 4 specific foods that are great for mental health. We already named nuts. What are the other 3?

Grandpa: What is fruit, green leafy vegetables, and…

Game show host: That’s two of them. Can anyone guess the last one?

Dad: What are legumes?

Game show host: Yes. So the 4 are:

Nuts. Especially almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews.

Legumes which include black beans, chick peas, and soybeans.

Fruits such as oranges, apples, and grapes.

and Green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, and spinach.

Next question.

Snack bars can be 22% sugar! A candy bar is about 35% sugar! Soft drinks can be 39% sugar! While raw nuts have how much sugar!?

Grandpa: None

Game show host: Yes. Having healthy snacks handy, like raw nuts, makes it much easier to make healthy choices when hunger strikes!

There are many natural sweeteners that are less harmful but the top four are coconut sugar, maple syrup, molasses and WHAT?

Ok. Final question before the lightning round. We’ve talked a lot today about how cutting out sugar can be good for your mental health. There are many natural sweeteners that are less harmful but the top four are coconut sugar, maple syrup, molasses and WHAT?

Bailey H Bee: HONEY!

Game show host: Bailey H Bee! You got a stinger in right here at the end. (Pause) and Honey is… CORRECT! Honey does contain higher fructose levels but is low on the glycemic index – which makes it one of the best sugar substitutes around. One study found that replacing sugar with honey can actually lower blood sugar and avoid the weight gain that comes with high levels of sugar consumption. Fruits with natural sugars are also a great option to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Okay, Family! You made it to the lightning round!

Are you ready? (nods and smiles, excitement)

Here we GO! You’ve got 30 seconds.

What are the top 10 raw foods related to mental health?

Montage: Different people answering. 

Correct answers:

  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach
  • Grapefruit
  • Lettuce
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fresh berries
  • Cucumber
  • Kiwifruit.

Game show host: Good work team. Many of these foods go great in smoothies. So today’s prize is a smoothie maker!

Other ways to eat healthier are:

  • Pick an unfamiliar green vegetable at the grocery each week!
  • Choose whole-grain pastas and breads
  • Cook using olive oil instead of other fats
  • Challenge yourself to go meatless one day a week or even at one meal a day - eating black beans, lentils, and other legumes instead.

Game show host: What a great family and great game today! That’s all for today’s episode.  Thanks for tuning in AND see you next time on Feed Your Mind!

Learn More


Begdache, L., Chaar, M., Sabounchi, N., & Kianmehr, H. (2019). Assessment of dietary factors, dietary practices and exercise on mental distress in young adults versus matured adults: a cross-sectional study. Nutritional neuroscience, 22(7), 488-498.


Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 487.


Camilleri M. (2009). Serotonin in the gastrointestinal tract. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity, 16(1), 53–59.


Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., ... & Berk, M. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’trial). BMC medicine, 15(1), 1-13.


Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific reports, 7(1), 1-10.


McManus, K. (2019) A practical guide to the Mediterranean diet. Harvard Health Blog.


Meegan, A. P., Perry, I. J., & Phillips, C. M. (2017). The association between dietary quality and dietary guideline adherence with mental health outcomes in adults: a cross-sectional analysis. Nutrients, 9(3), 238.


Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T. N., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sergentanis, I. N., Kosti, R., & Scarmeas, N. (2013). Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: a meta‐analysis. Annals of neurology, 74(4), 580-591.


Sánchez-Villegas, A., Henríquez-Sánchez, P., Ruiz-Canela, M., Lahortiga, F., Molero, P., Toledo, E., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2015). A longitudinal analysis of diet quality scores and the risk of incident depression in the SUN Project. BMC medicine, 13(1), 1-12.


Sánchez-Villegas, A., Toledo, E., De Irala, J., Ruiz-Canela, M., Pla-Vidal, J., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2012). Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption and the risk of depression. Public health nutrition, 15(3), 424-432.


Williams, M. J., Klockars, A., Eriksson, A., Voisin, S., Dnyansagar, R., Wiemerslage, L., ... & Schiöth, H. B. (2016). The Drosophila ETV5 homologue Ets96B: molecular link between obesity and bipolar disorder. PLoS genetics, 12(6), e1006104.