Arts & Life

Poor diet impacts student mental health

It’s no surprise to hear that the average college student’s diet consists of easy, inexpensive and often processed meals.

As classes progress into the year and grades become increasingly difficult to manage, one’s eating habits might not be at the forefront of their mind.

According to education Journalist Ginger Abbot, on average, the first-time college student gains 1.8 to 6.8 pounds by the end of their first semester. With inaccessibility to fresh foods, many students resort to the fast food found on campus, which often lacks the nutritional value to help the brain function.

Processed foods are known to cause a link between higher levels of depression and anxiety, which is often the go-to meal for students. It is hard to blame students for their diet when the offered food is mostly processed. Restaurants like Subway, Sbarro and El Pollo Loco are at the heart of the Student Union.

Diet and mental health go hand-in-hand, as many whole foods offer a variety of nutrients to boost serotonin, reduce inflammation and soothe anxiety. They are all essential to a college student’s mental well-being. Foods such as salmon, whole yogurt, fruits and eggs are known to be staples in a happy diet. However, for students who dorm, they aren’t as accessible.

“I would say living at the dorm hasn’t been great on my eating habits,” Beachside dorm resident BG Mabarak said. “The things that I eat tend to not be as healthy when I live in the dorms than I would at home with access to a kitchen.”

Eating healthy can be stressful to some, as it requires effort many students can’t afford in their time budget, especially when it comes to quick study snacks. With vending machines filled with processed food around classroom halls, going the extra mile to pack something healthy may not address the feelings of hunger.

“I don’t think we have access to healthy food,” Beachside dorm resident Lindsey Cooke said. “They have a salad bar and they will always have fruit and some type of vegetable with the meals. Not being able to cook in the dorms is kind of annoying just because I don’t get to choose what I eat.”

Many students only eat one to two times per day, which is often when they have a break between classes or when it’s time to settle in for the night. Going long periods of time with hunger can lead to blood sugar and energy levels dropping, which negatively affects students’ mental state.

Although there are many foods that unfortunately can’t be made in a dorm, there are always budget-friendly solutions.

Students can stock up on fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market that takes place every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or head to a local grocery store to fill that mini fridge. Grabbing juices that consist of strictly vegetables and fruit is another great way to pack in that extra serving, even if it’s only a couple times a week. Another alternative are the Farmer’s Fridge vending machines that are restocked a few times a day with fresh, healthy foods.

Although it’s difficult, keeping a balanced diet is crucial to keeping the brain healthy, happy and active. Once the change is made to improve one’s diet, grades may just improve as well.

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