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How To Eat For A More Resilient Brain, According To New Research

Hannah Frye
Author:
July 07, 2024
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

Woman stressed
Image by Stocksy | Irina Efremova
July 07, 2024

We often talk about resilience on a grand scale—how you recover from major traumatic experiences or how the body bounces back against adversity. But what about everyday resilience? How do we foster a stronger tendency to bounce back from daily stress?

According to a new study, food plays a larger role in resilience than you might expect. Below, what the researchers discovered about diet quality and stress resilience and why it matters for your well-being. 

Yes, the food you eat can make you more resilient

Published in the journal Nutrients, the new research suggests that diet quality was "positively and significantly1" associated with overall resilience for every age group, especially younger adults. 

Researchers used a detailed food frequency questionnaire to gauge diet quality, assigning positive scores to foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts. On the flip side, sugary beverages, processed meats, and fast food received negative scores.

Taking a closer look at how these categories were scored can help clarify diet quality and provide actionable steps to improve your own. Here's the breakdown of the 12 categories:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Fruits
  3. Fish
  4. Whole grains
  5. Nuts and seeds
  6. Beans or lentils
  7. Preparing meals at home
  8. Sugar-sweetened beverages (including 100% fruit juice) (reverse-scored)
  9. Red or processed meats (reverse-scored)
  10. High-sodium processed foods (reverse-scored)
  11. Sugar-sweetened baked goods or candy (reverse-scored)
  12. Fast food (reverse-scored)

Like many metrics, this scale is not perfect or personalized. It's important to remember that this assessment measures overall consumption, meaning if you eat candy or processed meats in moderation, it won't take your diet quality score. 

But as a general recommendation, the more nutrient-rich foods you consume, the more you will support stress resilience. You can't control every stress-inducing task or event, but you can support your emotional well-being through food. 

The takeaway

New research suggests diet quality and stress resilience are strongly associated, especially for younger adults. The key to raising your diet quality is to reach for nutrient-dense foods more often than you do their counterparts. Plus, there are even specific foods you can eat during bouts of stress to support a calmer mind—here are the best ones to consider.

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