Food As Medicine: Sorrel

Want to add some lemony tang to your dish and receive essential vitamins and minerals at the same time? Garden sorrel can do the trick. All things in moderation, though. Oxalic acid contained in sorrel can lead to the formation of kidney stones if consumed in excess.

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa, Polygonaceae) is a wild, perennial herb characterized by slender stems supporting bright green, spear-shaped leaves, with distinctive backwards-reaching lobes.1,2 Sorrel grows in patches that average in height from 20-36” and produce small red-brown flowers, which bloom in early summer and produce tiny, hard fruits.3 Sorrel is easy to cultivate and grows best in cool, temperate climates, as well as grasslands, coastal dunes, and cliffs.1 In addition to R. acetosa, another species of sorrel, French sorrel (R. scutatus), is used for culinary purposes.4 This article will profile the history, uses, and components of R. acetosa.

Sorrel is native to Europe and northern Asia, and evidence of cultivation dates back to 4,000 BCE.2 In the Middle Ages, sorrel was a prominent vegetable throughout Europe and was also cultivated by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Often referred to as the lemon of the leaf crops, the sour-tasting leaves are the most commonly consumed part of the plant.2,5 Sorrel’s stem and flower were also used in medicinal applications.2 Sorrel’s species name, acetosa, is Latin for “vinegary,” indicating the plant’s acidic taste.6

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Sorrel is a nutrient-dense green, containing important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.2Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy vision, bone growth, and a strong immune system.7Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, essential for its role in collagen synthesis and its antioxidant properties. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are the most abundant minerals within human cells, and each plays a role in electrolyte and fluid balance. Calcium is a structural component of the skeletal matrix, and iron is necessary for oxygen delivery and DNA synthesis.

Flavan-3-ols and other phenolic compounds in sorrel leaves provide additional benefits.8-10 Phenolic compounds have protective effects against inflammation and cell damage and interfere with tumor and estrogen receptor activities.10 The main phenolic compounds present in R. acetosa include resveratrol (41.27 µg/g), vanillic acid (130.29 µg/g), sinapic acid (5,708.48 µg/g), and catechin (75.46 µg/g). Sorrel leaves also contain beta-carotene, though not in therapeutic levels.11

Historical and Commercial Uses

Documented uses of sorrel include domestic remedies, and extend to complex medicinal therapies.2 Sorrel leaf juice has been used in fragrances and for stain removal, and sorrel leaves are a popular ingredient in French cuisine.

Sorrel leaves are considered acidic, astringent, and cooling.6 Sorrel has been used as a laxative and a topical treatment for skin disorders, sore throats, and warts.11 Sorrel leaf also was used for its diuretic properties to induce water excretion and to manage fevers.1,5,12 Due to its high concentration of vitamin C, sorrel has been used as a therapeutic food for conditions caused by vitamin C deficiencies, such as scurvy.1Furthermore, common garden sorrel was used as a treatment for constipation, cramping, and diarrhea, since the plant demonstrates soothing effects on the stomach and intestines.8,9 The astringent properties of the seeds were used to treat hemorrhages.12

Currently, sorrel is used as an ingredient in herbal medicinal remedies, such as Sinupret (Bionorica SE; Neumarkt, Germany), a proprietary blend of botanicals, indicated for sinusitis and bronchitis.7 Tablets contain 18-36mg of sorrel leaf and stem extract, in addition to four other herbs: elderflower (Sambucus nigra, Adoxaceae), primrose flower and calyx (Primula veris, Primulaceae), European vervain leaf and stem (Verbena officinalis, Verbenaceae), and yellow gentian root (Gentiana lutea, Gentianaceae).

Modern Research

Currently, studies on sorrel offer promising results in the areas of digestion, infection prevention, topical skin treatments, and anti-proliferative activity.10,12,13

A recent in vivo and in vitro study evaluated the traditional use of R. acetosa to treat stomach discomforts and distress in animal models.12 A 70% methanol extract from sorrel leaves was found to have a high acute toxicity dosage (i.e., large amounts were well tolerated and exhibited no adverse effects), relaxed the gastrointestinal tract or produced gastrointestinal contractions depending on the dose, and exhibited anti-emetic properties. These findings support the traditional use of sorrel as a constipation aid that stimulates a bowel movement.

Anti-diarrheal properties may be linked to the presence of calcium-binding components and tannins in sorrel.8,9,12Oxalic acid binds with and thereby reduces available free calcium for receptor stimulation. This leads to reduced muscle contraction and may alleviate diarrhea.12Tannins exert an astringent effect, which may help alleviate not only conditions such as diarrhea, but also chronic upper respiratory infections, by reducing excess fluid.9

Phytochemical extracts from other buckwheat families (Polygonaceae) members exhibit antiviral and anticancer effects, specifically extracts from R. acetosella, or sheep sorrel. Sheep sorrel has a history of use as an ingredient in the formula known as Essiac tea, which purportedly is based on the traditions of the indigenous Ojibwa Native American tribe.11 Garden sorrel shows similar antiviral and anticancer effects. An in vivo trial discovered that an extract of R. acetosa reduced influenza A viral invasion of host cells, and further reduced viral growth.14 Antiviral reactions are primary effects of rich polyphenol concentration. In sorrel, these polyphenols mainly include flavonols, proanthocyanidins, and hydrolysable tannins. These compounds may prevent the assembly and maturation (growth and development) of certain viruses, an important step in infection control.

Additional documentation supports anti-proliferative (tumor cell growth preventing) activities seen with R.acetosa preparations.10,13 Prevention of cell growth, specifically tumor cells, was found at concentrations of 75 and 100 µg/mL of a 90% aqueous methanol extract.10

In vitro and in vivo trials displayed antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Sinupret was able to reduce viscosity, or thickness, of mucus in animal models and produce an anti-inflammatory response. Sorrel’s contributions to anti-inflammation are credited to an increased response by immune cells. Few adverse side effects related to sorrel have been reported, and include gastrointestinal disorders and correlated allergic reactions.7

47777071 - sorrel also called spinach dock a nutritious plant
Consumer Considerations

Oxalic acid within sorrel produces a bitter taste, which makes sorrel a valuable ingredient for adding a tart, lemony flavor to various dishes. However, oxalic acid is a potential cause for concern in regard to renal function.11 Crystalized calcium oxalate (which forms when oxalic acid combines with calcium) can lead to the formation of kidney stones and may also accumulate in the heart, circulatory vessels, and lungs.15 In addition, oxalic acid’s ability to bind to micronutrients, such as iron and calcium, decreases its absorption.11,13 Furthermore, oxalates may irritate the digestive system when consumed in large amounts.16 For these reasons, consumption of sorrel should be monitored for special populations affected by renal and arthritic conditions, as well as those with gastrointestinal disorders.1,11

Oxalic acid is concentrated at 300mg per 100 grams of sorrel.11 The majority is found within the leaves, followed by marginal amounts in stems.13 The concentration of oxalates depends on the plant’s growing conditions, such as soil and climate.8 Moreover, tannins in sorrel leaves are concentrated between 7-15%.11When consumed in large amounts, tannins may cause stomach upset and/or kidney and liver damage.

Fortunately, oxalic acid concentration decreases to negligible amounts with light cooking.11 For example, sorrel soup has a lower oxalic acid concentration compared to pesto made with fresh sorrel leaves.13 Also, the oxalic acid concentration increases proportionately to the size and length of the leaf, making young, tender leaves a better choice for those people affected by these conditions.

Nutrient Profile17

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup chopped raw sorrel)

29 calories
3 g protein
4 g carbohydrate
1 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 cup chopped raw sorrel)

Excellent source of:
Vitamin A: 5320 IU (106.4% DV)
Vitamin C: 63.8 mg (106.3% DV)
Magnesium: 137 mg (34.3% DV)
Manganese: 0.5 mg (25% DV)

Very good source of:
Iron: 3.2 mg (17.8% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 4 g (16% DV)
Potassium: 519 mg (14.8% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)

Good source of:
Phosphorus: 83.8 mg (8.4% DV)
Thiamin: 0.1 mg (6.7% DV)
Calcium: 58.5 mg (5.9% DV)
Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (5.9% DV)

Also provides:
Folate: 17.3 mcg (4.3% DV)
Niacin: 0.7 mg (3.5% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Recipe: Green Potato Salad

Adapted from Blue Apron18


  • 2 pounds yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 6 ounces fresh sorrel leaves
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place the potatoes in a

    sauce pan

    and cover with water. Bring to a boil, salt the water, then cook until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork, approximately 15 minutes.

  2. Lift the potatoes out, reserving the water, and set aside in a bowl. Add the greens to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until wilted. Drain the spinach into a strainer, pressing to release as much water as possible.

  3. Roughly chop the greens, then add to the potatoes.

  4. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss thoroughly to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Salad may be served warm, at room temperature, or after chilling.


  1. Rumex acetosa (common sorrel). Kew Royal Botanic Gardens website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  2. Van Wyk B-E. Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc.; 2006.
  3. Bown D. The Herb Society of America: New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.; 2001.
  4. Real Food Right Now and How to Cook It: Sorrel. Grace Communications Foundation website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  5. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory. 18th edition. Cincinnati, OH: Ohio Valley Co.; 1898. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  6. Onstad D. Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers & Lovers of Natural Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company; 1996.
  7. Oliff HS, Blumenthal M. Scientific and Clinical Monograph for Sinupret. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 2009.
  8. Kemper KJ. Sorrel (Rumex acetosa L.). Boston, MA: The Longwood Herbal Task Force; 1999.
  9. Bicker J, Petereit F, Hensel A. Proanthocyanidins and a phloroglucinol derivative from Rumex acetosaL. Fitoterapia. 2009;80(8):483-495.
  10. Kucekova Z, Mlcek J, Humpolicek P, Rop O, Valasek P, Saha P. Phenolic compounds from Allium schoenoprasumTragopogon pratensis and Rumex acetosa and their antiproliferative effects. Molecules. 2011;16(11):9207-9217.
  11. Vasas A, Orbán-Gyapai O, Hohmann J. The Genus Rumex: Review of traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;175:198-228.
  12. Hussain M, Raza SM, Janbaz KH. Pharmacologically mechanistic basis for the traditional uses of Rumex acetosa in gut motility disorders and emesis. Bangladesh J Pharmacol. 2015;10(3):548.
  13. Tuazon-Nartea J, Savage G. Investigation of oxalate levels in sorrel plant parts and sorrel-based products. Food Nutr Sci. 2013;4(8):838-843.
  14. Derksen A, Hensel A, Hafezi W, et al. 3-O-galloylated procyanidins from Rumex acetosa L. inhibit the attachment of influenza A virus. PLoS One. 2014;9(10).
  15. Oxalic acid. J.R. Organics website. Available here. Accessed May 5, 2016.
  16. Elpel T. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, LLC; 2013.
  17. Basic report: 11616 Dock, raw. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  18. Seared Salmon and “Green” Potato Salad with Pickled Mustard Seeds. Blue Apron website. Available here. Accessed April 28, 2016.

Blueberries: How They Help To Kill Cancer Cells.

Blueberries are sometimes branded a “superfood,” and for good reason; they are packed full of antioxidants that offer a wealth of health benefits. Now, a new study has uncovered another use for these little berries: helping to treat cancer.


Blueberry extract could help in the fight against cancer, say, researchers.

By studying human cervical cancer cell lines, a team of researchers discovered that adding blueberry extract to radiation therapy can significantly improve treatment efficacy.

Lead study author Dr. Yujiang Fang, who works in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues recently reported their results in Pathology and Oncology Research.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), around 12,820 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and more than 4,200 women are expected to die from the disease.

Radiation therapy remains a primary treatment for cervical cancer. It involves using high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells.

“For some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option,” says Dr. Fang. “However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs.”

For their study, the researchers set out to determine whether or not blueberry extract could be used as a radiosensitizer, which is a compound that makes cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy.

Blueberry extract ‘tricks’ cancer cells

In previous research, Dr. Fang and colleagues revealed that resveratrol — a compound present in grapes and red wine — helped to sensitize prostate cancer cells to radiation therapy.

The researchers note that blueberries also contain resveratrol, as well as flavonoids. “Flavonoids,” notes Dr. Fang, “are chemicals that may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.”

The team tested blueberry extract on human cancer cell lines for their latest study. The extract was tested both alone and in combination with radiation therapy. These effects were compared with those of radiation therapy alone.

While radiation therapy alone reduced the number of cancer cells by 20 percent, the blueberry extract alone led to a 25 percent reduction in cancer cells.

However, when the blueberry extract and radiation therapy were combined, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by around 70 percent.

The researchers explain that the blueberry extract does not only make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation, but it also reduces the abnormal cell growth that fuels cancer development.

“Cancer cells avoid death by remodeling themselves,” continues Dr. Fang. “Along with reducing cell proliferation, the extract also ‘tricks’ cancer cells into dying. So it inhibits the birth and promotes the death of cancer cells.”

While further studies are needed, the researchers say that their findings indicate that blueberries may be a promising treatment strategy for cervical cancer and other cancer types.

Blueberries are very common and found all over the world. They are readily accessible and inexpensive. As a natural treatment option for boosting the effectiveness of existing therapies, I feel they would be enthusiastically accepted.”

Dr. Yujiang Fang

The Health Benefits of Celeriac

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is an unusual and nutritious vegetable with a wide variety of uses. It is from the same family as celery but is a very different plant.

Celeriac that has been washed and peeled can be eaten raw or cooked using different methods.

This article explores the nutritional content of celeriac, its possible health benefits, and how to use it in recipes.

What is celeriac?


Celeriac contains many nutrients and is similar in taste to celery and parsley.

Celeriac has green leaves and stalks that grow above ground, and a root covered in rough, brown skin that grows underground.

The edible part of the celeriac plant is the root. Inside it is pale in color, similar to that of a potato or turnip. Its flavor is similar to celery and parsley.

Celeriac contains multiple nutrients that may offer health benefits, as part of a healthy diet, including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin B-6
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • fiber

Celeriac originated in Mediterranean and north European countries. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Italians used it for medicinal and religious purposes. Scientists first wrote about it as food in the 1600s, and it remains popular throughout Europe.

Celeriac vs. celery

While celery is grown for its edible leaves and stalks, celeriac is grown for its roots. Celeriac is sometimes called celery root, but it is not the root of celery stalks.

Other names for celeriac are knob celery and turnip-rooted celery, and it is the same family as carrots and related to celery, parsley, and parsnips.

Health benefits of celeriac

Bone health

Rich in vitamin C, celeriac could help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Vitamin K intake may impact bone health. Celeriac is high in vitamin K with a 1 cup of raw celeriac containing 64 micrograms (mcg).

Researchers reviewed studies that looked at the relationship between vitamin K and bone fractures. They found that people with higher dietary vitamin K intake had a lower risk of fractures.

Specifically, they noted that risk of fracture reduced by 22 percent in people with the highest vitamin K intake compared with those with the lowest.


Diabetes affects millions of people around the world. A healthful diet may lower the risk for type 2 diabetes.

In one large study in Europe, scientists examined the association between fruit and vegetable intake, including root vegetables, and risk for type 2 diabetes.

They found that people who ate the most root vegetables had a 13 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed the least amounts.

Eating the root of the celeriac plant is one way to increase intake of root vegetables.

Heart health

In one study, scientists looked at the association between plasma ascorbic acid, a marker of vitamin C in the blood, and risk for high blood pressure. They found that people with higher blood levels of ascorbic acid had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

Consuming foods that are high in vitamin C, such as celeriac, could help lower the risk for high blood pressure by improving ascorbic acid levels.

Nutritional information

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of raw celeriac provides:

  • 66 kilocalories (kcal)
  • 2.34 grams (g) of protein
  • 0.47 g of fat
  • 14.35 g of carbohydrate
  • 2.8 g of fiber

Celeriac is a concentrated source of many nutrients. A 1-cup serving of raw celeriac provides the following daily value (DV) percentages:

  • 11 percent of fiber
  • 13 percent of potassium
  • 13 percent of vitamin B-6
  • 18 percent of phosphorus.

Celeriac is high in vitamins C and K, providing 21 and 80 percent of the DV for those nutrients, respectively.


celeriac in salad

Celeriac can be used uncooked, sliced, or grated and added to salads.

Celeriac is a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Raw celeriac is commonly used in salads. It may be best known for its use in a French dish called celerie remoulade.

Cooked celeriac can be prepared by baking, boiling, frying, or steaming. It can also be mashed and served as a side dish, or chopped and added to soups.

See below for a few celeriac recipes:


If celeriac is not available, celery and parsley root can be switched for a similar flavor in soups. For mashing or roasting, parsnips or potatoes could be used in place of celeriac.

Often, celeriac and potatoes are prepared using similar methods, or they can be substituted for one another in recipes. Celeriac can also be used as an alternative to potatoes for people trying to lower their calorie or carbohydrate intake.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of boiled celeriac pieces provides 42 kcal and 9.14 g of carbohydrate. The same amount of boiled potatoes provides 134 kcal and 31.22 g of carbohydrate.

Health Benefits of Carrot Juice

Juicing has become increasingly popular in recent years and is now a multi-million dollar industry.

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices can be purchased at most grocers, farmers’ markets, and shops dedicated to fresh juice. They can also be made at home with juicing equipment.

Carrots are a common ingredient in many juices, as they provide a flavor that pairs well with many other fruits and vegetables.

Aside from taste, carrot juice may also provide numerous health benefits. Read on to learn more about the potential health benefits and possible risks of drinking carrot juice.

Nutritional information

Carrot juice in glasses next to raw carrots on chopping board.

Carrot juice is nutritionally dense and a more healthful alternative to many fruit juices.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of canned carrot juice contains:

  • 94 kilocalories (kcal)
  • 2.24 grams (g) of protein
  • 0.35 g of fat
  • 21.90 g of carbohydrate
  • 1.90 g of fiber

The same amount of juice provides a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • 689 milligrams (mg) of potassium
  • 20.1 mg of vitamin C
  • 0.217 mg of thiamin
  • 0.512 mg of vitamin B-6
  • 2,256 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 36.6 mcg of vitamin K

Health benefits for carrot juice

Carrot juice is nutritious and may be beneficial for a range of health conditions:

Stomach cancer

Carrots contain antioxidants, which may explain their role in cancer prevention. In a review of studies, researchers looked at the effect of eating carrots on the risk for stomach cancer.

They concluded that eating carrots were associated with a 26 percent lower risk for stomach cancer. However, they did not specify how many had to be eaten to lower stomach cancer risk. More controlled studies are needed to confirm this association.


More research is needed, but carrot juice may have a future role in leukemia treatment.

In one study, researchers looked at the effect of carrot juice extracts on leukemia cells. The carrot juice extracts caused the leukemia cells to self-destruct and stopped their cell cycle.

Breast cancer

Purple, white, and orange carrots in box.

The high levels of carotenoids in carrot juice may help to lower the risk of breast cancer returning,

A study of breast cancer survivors looked at the effect of carrot juice on levels of carotenoids, markers of oxidative stress, and markers of inflammation in the blood.

The researchers reported that higher levels of carotenoids in the blood were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer returning.

During the study, participants consumed 8 ounces of carrot juice daily for 3 weeks. At the end of the study, the women had higher blood levels of carotenoids and lower levels of a marker associated with oxidative stress.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Carrot juice is high in vitamin C. Researchers looked at the association between dietary vitamin C intake and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Korean adults aged 40 years or older.

They found that people with COPD had significantly lower intakes of multiple nutrients found in carrot juice, including carotene, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, than people without COPD.

However, people with COPD also ate significantly less food overall than people without COPD.

For people who smoked heavily, the risk of COPD is lower in those who consumed more vitamin C than those who consumed very little.

Possible risks and considerations

People with weakened immune systems — such as those receiving cancer treatment, pregnant women, young children, and older people — may need to avoid certain foods if there is a risk of these carrying food-borne illnesses.

Fruit and vegetable juices that are freshly squeezed or have not been pasteurized may have a higher risk of carrying germs.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center state that people who have been told to follow a low-microbial diet should avoid unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices unless they are made at home.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), pregnant women should choose juices that have been pasteurized or treated to have a long shelf life. Freshly squeezed juices, which may be sold at farmers’ markets or juice bars, should also be avoided.

Carrots contain a type of carotenoid called beta-carotene that the body can convert into vitamin A.

Eating large amounts of carotenoids from foods has not been linked with harmful effects. However, the skin can turn yellow-orange if a person consumes large amounts of beta-carotene for a long time. This effect is called carotenoderma.

Juicing tips and recipes

Carrots freshly blended and juiced.

Carrot juice contains less fiber and more sugar than raw carrots.

According to Stanford Health Care, the vitamin and mineral nutrients in 1 cup of carrot juice are almost equivalent to the amounts in 5 cups of chopped carrots.

While fresh fruit and vegetable juices do provide plenty of nutrients, they do not contain as much fiber as fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, they contain more sugar per cup than whole fruits and vegetables.

For example, 1 cup of carrot juice contains 2 g of fiber and 9 g of sugar, while 1 cup of cubed, raw carrots contains 3.5 g of fiber and 6 g of sugar.

Making fresh carrot juice at home requires a juice extractor. These appliances are sold online, in department stores, and at other retail stores that sell small kitchen appliances.

It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using a juicer and clean it after each use. Juice extractors may also come with recipe suggestions.

Carrots can be combined with other fruits and vegetables to make tasty juices. A person can try the following recipes at home:


Carrot juice may offer many health benefits due to the concentrated levels of nutrients it contains.

However, carrot juice has less fiber and more sugar than whole carrots. Fiber is associated with weight management and lowering cholesterol levels.

Carrot juice may not be appropriate for everyone, especially pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and people with certain illnesses, depending on how it is prepared.

Carrot juice in moderation can be included as part of a healthy diet. However, drinking juice is not a replacement for eating whole fruits and vegetables.

Which Foods are Best for Mental Well-Being?

Meat, fruits, and vegetables – studies have suggested that these foods have the potential to boost mood and mental health. But which are best? Well, according to new research, the effects of specific foods on psychological well-being are highly dependent on a person’s age.
Food representation of the human brain

The effect of diet on mental health may be influenced by age, researchers suggest.

Researchers from the State University of New York at Binghamton have found that certain foods affect the mood and mental wellness of young adults differently to that of older adults, and vice versa.

Study co-author Lina Begdache, who is an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton, and colleagues believe that their findings may help individuals to make food choices that benefit their mental well-being.

The team recently reported their results in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.

In recent years, researchers have established that what we eat can have a significant impact on our mental health. A study reported by Medical News Today earlier this year, for example, suggested that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables can improve psychological well-being in just 2 weeks, while other research has suggested a link between red meat intake and reduced risk of depression.

It is believed that such benefits are down to how certain foods modify our brain chemistry, which can affect psychological health. But Begdache and colleagues make an important point: the structure of our brains is not the same throughout our entire lifespan.

As the researchers note, “Brain maturation may not complete until the age of 30, which may explain the differential emotional control, mindset, and resilience between young adults and matured adults.”

“As a result, dietary factors may influence mental health differently in these two populations.”

To find out whether or not this is the case, the scientists used social media platforms to send out an online Food-Mood Questionnaire (FMQ). Respondents were divided into two groups: young adults (aged 18–29) and mature adults (aged 30 or older).

Red meat, poultry beneficial for young adults

Using the FMQ data, Begdache and colleagues looked at the link between diet, exercise, and mental distress in both groups.

They found that a higher intake of poultry and red meat — which both increase levels of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine — was associated with better mood and mental health in young adults, but not mature adults.

“Regular exercise leads to a build-up of these and other neurotransmitters as well,” notes Begdache. “In other words, young adults who ate meat (red or white) less than three times a week and exercised less than three times week showed a significant mental distress.”

Age ‘may necessitate dietary adjustments’

The scientists also found that abstaining from foods and beverages that activate the “fight-or-flight” response, or the stress response — such as coffee and carbohydrate-rich foods — was associated with better mental health in mature adults.

“[…] our ability to regulate stress decreases [with aging], so if we consume food that activates the stress response, we are more likely to experience mental distress,” says Begdache.

Overall, the researchers believe that their results indicate that a person’s age influences the effects of diet on psychological well-being.

The authors conclude:

Level of brain maturation and age-related changes in brain morphology and functions may necessitate dietary adjustments for improving mental well-being.”

The team now plans to investigate whether or not the dietary effects of food on mental health vary by sex, given that men and women have differences in brain structure.