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Is Junk Food Linked to Mental Health Disorders in Children?


That junk food that kids love so much could be affecting their mental health

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Junk food may be a fast and easy way to feed our children, but are the potential health effects worth it? Millions of children suffer from mental health disorders, according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your child is diagnosed with a mental health condition like ADHD, depression, anxiety, or autism, it could be due to fast food advertisements and the food they eat, according to Medical Daily.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that the more junk food advertisements children watch on TV, the more junk food they eat. And the more junk food they put into their bodies, the greater the effect not only on their weight, but also their brains, too.

Unhealthy food can have long-term negative effects on mental health and behavior because it affects the structure and function of the brain, according to another study. Think of it this way: When you eat a healthy meal, you probably feel energized and satisfied, but when you eat an unhealthy meal, or don’t eat at all, you may feel wiped out, depressed, unfocused, or moody.

Mental health disorders are long-term conditions that affect a person’s overall health. If a child does not get early diagnosis and treatment, the disorder can interfere with the child’s development and cause issues in its personal life and relationships.

So maybe it’s time to turn off those junk food ads.


Junk food affects the brain, mental health by shrinking the hippocampus

Unhealthy diets containing junk food have been shown to affect the brain and lead to poor mental health. The findings come from researchers at Deakin University and the Australian National University.

Specific findings concluded that a part in the brain &ndash the hippocampus &ndash has been shown to be smaller in those who consume junk food. The hippocampus is responsible for learning, memory and mental health.

Researchers used MRI scanning to measure the size of the hippocampi in Australian adults between the ages of 60 and 64. Diet and other factors which could affect the hippocampus were measured and taken into account as well.

The results, published in BMC Medicine, revealed that seniors who consume junk food are more likely to have smaller left hippocampi. On the other hand, seniors who consume more nutrient-rich foods have larger left hippocampi.

Associate Professor Felice Jacka said, &ldquoMental disorders account for the leading cause of disability worldwide, while rates of dementia are increasing as the population ages. Recent research has established that diet and nutrition are related to the risk for depression, anxiety and dementia however, until now it was not clear how diet might exert an influence on mental health and cognition.&rdquo

Once again we see another study which highlights the importance of eating well nutrition and diet play a large role in all aspects of health &ndash brain size included.

Effects of lifestyle choices on brain size

Now that we know that eating poorly affects brain size, there are negative effects which can result in a smaller brain. Other lifestyle choices can also impair brain size, like smoking and being overweight. Research has revealed the negative consequences poor lifestyle choices have on our brain health, such as:

  • Impaired cognitive ability in those with heart disease
  • Smokers have worsened memory in comparison to non-smokers
  • Smoking and diabetes are linked to cognitive decline

This goes to show that we should also continue to embark on other healthy lifestyle choices if we want to maintain memory and cognitive ability. Thus not smoking, controlling or preventing diabetes and preventing heart disease and obesity are all important aspects of health.

Effects of junk food on brain health

Our brain changes when we consume junk food. For starters, we can very well become addicted to it &ndash especially food containing sugar. Other effects of junk food on brain health include:

Brain damage: Junk food does not properly nourish our brains. Our body needs adequate and proper nutrition in order to work &ndash brain included. Many nutrients work to boost brain health, for example, the nutrients found in fish or olive oil have been shown to reduce the risk of dementia. When we continue to consume junk food our brains become starved thus resulting in brain damage.

Mental health disorders: Junk food disrupts the signals in the brain which make us feel happy. Not consuming the right nutrition can leave us feeling depressed, anxious, or lead to ADHD or even schizophrenia.

Cognitive ability: Overconsumption of calories can result in the brain being unable to produce healthy synapses &ndash responsible for learning and memory. Therefore, constantly consuming high calorie meals &ndash typically found at fast-food restaurants &ndash can result in impaired learning and poor memory.

Best brain foods

The easiest way to protect your brain from damage, mental health disorders and preserve your learning ability is to eat well. Below is a list of the best brain foods which you should consume if you want a healthy brain for years to come.

  • Whole grains
  • Oily fish
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Blackcurrant
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Sage
  • Nuts

Incorporating these brain foods into your diet and eliminating the junk means you won&rsquot have to worry about learning new things or forgetting a loved one&rsquos birthday any longer.

Related Reading:

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center have shown that seniors can greatly benefit from exercise when it comes to boosting brain health. With this study researchers wanted to know how much exercise was needed to improve the cognitive function. Continue reading&hellip

Harvard researchers have linked inflammation and reduction in blood flow to the brain in those with Type 2 diabetes with reduced cognitive function. Type 2 diabetes remains prevalent in the American population. Continue reading&hellip


Scientists Reveal How Junk Food Causes Depression And 10 Foods That Can Help

How Junk Food Causes Depression

A study entitled “Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption and the risk of depression”, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, confirmed the link between junk food and mental health disorder risk.

The study found that those who consume fast food regularly are 51% more likely to wind up developing symptoms of depression when compared to those who eat little to no junk food. Increased junk food consumption also increases risks. Thus, the more you eat, the more susceptible you become.

A study sample of 8,964 individuals participated in a study, all from the University of Navarra Diet and Lifestyle Tracking Program’s SUN Project. Each participant, none of which had a diagnosis of depression when the study began, was assessed over the course of around 6 months. After the study period was over, 493 individuals were prescribed antidepressants or were diagnosed with a depressive disorder.

From these results, researchers were able to determine that even consuming small amounts of junk food, even commercially baked goods lead to increased depression risk. Individuals consuming junk food were also found to work very long hours, smoke, be less active, have poor diets, and be single.

Though more research is needed, study authors are positive that those avoiding depressive symptoms should cut down on their junk food consumption overall.


Junk food in pregnancy linked to childhood mental disorders

During pregnancy, it can be hard not to give in to those cravings for unhealthy foods. But researchers have found that mothers who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to have children with mental health problems.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia, alongside researchers from Norway, analyzed more than 23,000 mothers who were a part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, gathered information regarding the mothers&rsquo diets throughout pregnancy and their children&rsquos diets at both 18 months and 3 years of age.

The mothers were also asked to complete questionnaires when their children were 18 months, 3-years and 5-years-old to establish symptoms of:

The researchers then analyzed the relationship between the mothers&rsquo and children&rsquos diets, and the mental health symptoms and behaviors in the children aged 18 months to five-years-old.

Results of the study reveal that mothers who eat more unhealthy foods during pregnancy, such as sweet drinks, refined cereals and salty foods, have children with increased behavioral problems, such as aggression and tantrums.

Additionally, the findings show that children who eat more unhealthy foods in their first years of life, or who lack nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, also show increased aggression and behavioral problems, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Associate professor Felice Jacka, researcher at the IMPACT Strategic Research Center at Deakin University, says:

&ldquoIt is becoming even more clear that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum.&rdquo

&ldquo These new findings suggest that unhealthy and &lsquojunk&rsquo foods may have an impact on the risk for mental health problems in children, and they add to the growing body of evidence on the impact of unhealthy diets on the risk for depression, anxiety and even dementia.&rdquo

Felice Jacka adds that there is an urgent need for governments everywhere to take note of the evidence and change policies to restrict the marketing and availability of unhealthy food products to the community.

&ldquoThe changes to our food systems, including the shift to more high-energy, low nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses right across the globe,&rdquo she says.

The UK National Health Service notes that although there is no need to go on a special diet during pregnancy, it is important to eat a variety of different foods every day to ensure both mother and baby get the right balance of nutrients.

They add that instead of eating snacks that are high in fat and sugar, try a healthy alternative such as:

  • Sandwiches or pita bread filled with grated cheese, lean ham, mashed tuna, salmon or sardines, with salad
  • Salad vegetables &ndash such as carrot, celery or cucumber
  • Low-fat yoghurt or fromage frais
  • Hummus with bread or vegetable sticks
  • Ready-to-eat apricots, figs or prunes
  • Vegetable and bean soups
  • Unsweetened breakfast cereals, or porridge with milk
  • Milky drinks or unsweetened fruit juices
  • Fresh fruit
  • Baked beans on toast or a baked potato.

Other studies have also suggested potential health risks of eating junk food while pregnant. Animal research from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 2006 suggested a link between unhealthy food during pregnancy and the risk of obesity in offspring.


Your Kid's Diet and Her Mental Health Are Connected

The food your child eats doesn't only affect her physical body. A recent study shows that a healthy diet makes for happier kids.

There&aposs a lot of focus on what a nutritious diet can do for children&aposs physical health, like proper growth, stronger bones, and even a lower risk for chronic disease in adulthood. But what about their mental health? A new study finds that what kids eat can have a big impact on how they feel socially and emotionally too.

The research, published in BMC Public Health, studied more than 7,000 European children ages 2-9. Researchers measured the children&aposs diets based on whether they were following nutrition guidelines such as limiting intake of added sugars, getting fruits and veggies every day, eating whole grains, and consuming fish 2-3 times per week. They also looked at four indicators of well-being: self-esteem, parent relations, emotional problems, and peer problems. Then they followed up two years later.

What they found: A better diet at baseline was associated with better emotional wellbeing two years later, including higher self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems. This held true regardless of the child&aposs weight and economic status. The reverse was also true. Kids with higher self-esteem were more likely to be eating a healthy diet two years later.

Good parent relations were associated with eating fruits and veggies daily, fewer emotional problems were linked to a lower fat intake, and fewer peer problems were related to consuming fruits and veggies.

So what&aposs at work? Researchers have a few guesses. They speculate that certain foods, such as fish and whole grains, could be good for psychological well-being𠅊nd that nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or vitamins and minerals in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could have a direct positive effect on mental health. Eating a healthy diet may also improve overall health, impacting things like dental health and sleep, which could boost emotional health too.

It&aposs also possible that a healthy diet may help kids cope with the stresses and challenges in life𠅊nd that kids with good emotional health don&apost tend to use unhealthy food as a coping mechanism.

Though the researchers say the study doesn&apost prove direct cause-and-effect between diet and emotional well-being, it does suggest there&aposs a connection between what kids eat and how they feel. The U.K. Mental Health Foundation calls diet an "underestimated" factor in mental health.

Here are the U.S. nutrition guidelines for kids ages 4-8:

Vegetables: 1.5 cups per day

Whole Grains: At least half of grain servings should be whole grains

Fish: Two servings per week

Added sugar: No more than 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) per day

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist&aposs Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp𠅊nd Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.


A growing body of research

In the 1990s, when experimental psychologist Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD, first heard people claiming they could treat ADHD with a multinutrient compound, she was dismissive. Then she saw preliminary data showing improvements in children with ADHD who had received the supplement. She changed her mind and her research focus, becoming a pioneer in the emerging field of nutritional psychology.

One of the broad-based formulas that Kaplan—now a professor emerita at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine—and many others study was originally developed by a father seeking to cure his family's mental health problems without the side effects of psychotropic medications. A mix of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, the supplement aims to address deficiencies in the nutrients required for optimal brain functioning.

The family's story and that early research convinced Kaplan to open her mind and subject the compound to scientific inquiry. Since then, in several small studies, she has found promising evidence for its use in such diverse areas as improving emotional control after a traumatic brain injury (Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Vol. 4, No. 5, 2016), treating emotional and behavioral problems in children (Journal of Medical Case Reports, Vol. 9, No. 240, 2015) and minimizing distress after a natural disaster (Psychiatry Research, Vol. 228, No. 3, 2015).

According to Kaplan, one overall finding in studies on the impact of broad-spectrum micronutrients is that people improve their functioning across the board, not just in target areas such as ADHD symptoms.

In one randomized controlled trial, for instance, Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and colleagues assigned 80 adults with ADHD to receive either a broad-based micronutrient formula or a placebo.

After eight weeks, participants in the intervention group and their spouses rated their ADHD symptoms as having decreased more than the placebo group, although ­clinicians saw no significant group difference in ADHD symptoms (British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 204, No. 4, 2014).

However, on ratings of global functioning, the clinicians indicated that about half of the intervention group had improved, as compared with only a quarter of the placebo group. And those in the intervention arm who were moderately or severely depressed at baseline had a bigger change in mood than those in the placebo arm. "As disappointing as it is not to get significant group differences across the board on all the ADHD measures, what's relevant at the end of the day is that your impairment is reduced and you're functioning better," says Rucklidge.


Disclaimer:

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Comments

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According to a recent study done by The Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center in California, adults who tend to consume food considered unhealthy were also more likely to show signs of psychological distress than those who eat healthy.

For this study, there were over 240,000 phone surveys conducted across various parts of California. The surveys took place between the years 2005 and 2015. This was done through the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). After years of studying, and researching, the results showed that roughly 17% of adults in regions around California are possible to experience mental illnesses. Within the 17%, the study also showed that 13.2% had moderate psychological stress while 3.7% had severe psychological distress. Another result found in this study was how an increased intake of sugar can be connected to bipolar disorder, and eating a high amount of foods that are fried, have high amounts of sugar and processed grains can link to depression.

One of the lead authors of this study, Jim E. Banta, mentions how important he thinks the correlation between mental illnesses and healthy diets are. Although the research done along with this study at Loma Linda University is relatively small, it is still revealing that there could be an underlying connection between these two things. All of this information allows scientists to further study this information and make more conclusions from it.

While it can sometimes be hard to get valuable, honest data, scientists studying this research took many different variables into consideration. They also factored in how not everyone with a poor diet has a mental illness and not everyone with a mental illness has a poor diet.


Here’s the Deal With Your Junk Food Cravings

Ever feel like you have an endless craving for all the junk food — salty, sweet or both — that you can get your hands on?

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You just can’t seem to give it up and keep eating, especially during times of heavy stress. And there’s certainly been plenty of stress to keep us hitting the bags of chocolate the last several months.

“Especially when we’re stressed, junk food often soothes us with the least amount of fuss and effort. We look for sugary and fatty foods to make us feel good,” says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD. “But there are ways to get control of your food cravings, instead of them controlling you.”

Is “junk food” bad for you?

Junk food is food that is unhealthy for you, just as the word “junk” implies. It runs the gamut from sickly sweet (think: cookies, candy and cake) to heavy on saturated fats (think: fried and processed foods). Eating too much junk food can have short- and long-term consequences for your body thanks to these ingredients.

Saturated fats

Eating foods rich in saturated fats can increase your cholesterol levels and the amount of plaque in your blood vessels. “If you have blood vessels that are stiffening and not moving blood effectively, you have a higher risk for heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes,” says Czerwony.

Sugars

Too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain, a risk factor for diabetes. Some animal studies also suggest that artificial sweeteners make our bodies resist insulin. This may also increase the likelihood of developing prediabetes, diabetes and heart disease.

“Most Americans are walking around with prediabetes, putting them at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes,” Czerwony adds. “Once you have diabetes, doctors treat you as if you’ve already had a heart attack because the rate of heart disease is so much higher. All of these health issues affect all the organs, so it’s important to get a handle on them.”

What causes junk food and sugar cravings?

Czerwony lists four reasons you may be craving sweets and other junk food.

1. Food euphoria

Unfortunately, our bodies are hard-wired to crave junk food. When you eat foods you enjoy, you stimulate the feel-good centers in your brain, triggering you to eat even more.

Especially in patients with excess weight and obesity, the brain’s reward processing system for food is like its mechanisms related to substance abuse. “Sugar makes us want to eat more sugar. Fat makes us want to eat more fat,” notes Czerwony. “Our brains are chasing that pleasurable state of food euphoria.”

2. Lack of sleep

Studies suggest that sleep deprivation is associated with increased hunger (especially snack and sweet cravings). And you can blame it on your hormones. Lack of sleep causes hormone shifts:

  • Ghrelin, the hunger-control hormone, increases, causing you to eat more.
  • Leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone, decreases. , the stress hormone, may increase, stimulating your appetite. that sleep deprivation causes an increase in overall hunger, which can lead to cravings of sugar, fat or both.

3. Habit

“If it’s normal for you to eat junk food, it can be hard to break that cycle,” explains Czerwony. “You’re used to not cooking, preparing or planning. You eat whatever’s on hand because that’s what you’ve always done.”

4. Stress

Stress, or emotional, eating really is a thing — and it’s the result of both nature and nurture. Some people find food helps distract them from negative thoughts and feelings. Others learned as children to use food to cope.

Hormones are also responsible. Like lack of sleep, ongoing stress causes the body to increase levels of cortisol and other hormones connected to hunger. Studies show this hormone tsunami increases appetite — along with your desire for sugary and fatty foods.

Seven ways to curb junk food cravings

Czerwony says these strategies can help you master your food cravings:

  • Practice mindfulness: Try to eat and drink without distractions, Czerwony advises: “Avoid eating in the car or while watching TV or answering emails. Really focus on enjoying and tasting your food. You’ll find that a few bites can satisfy your craving — and save a lot of calories.”
  • Try an air fryer: “One of the best recent inventions is the convection air fryer. It allows you to eat things that have a fried consistency, minus the oil,” explains Czerwony. “It’s a healthier way to indulge.”
  • Embrace meal planning: Czerwony says when you plan ahead, you empower yourself to make good decisions. “Even if you choose a food that’s not healthy, it shouldn’t be a problem if you plan for it by eating healthier for a couple of days before or after.” Other ways to plan include stashing healthy snacks in your bag or desk and plan dinners ahead of time so your mind (and not your stomach) decides the menu.
  • Give yourself non-food-related rewards: If treating yourself always involves unhealthy foods, you could be sabotaging your health goals. Instead, treat yourself to a new outfit, some pampering or another activity that makes you smile.
  • Drink lots of water: It’s easy to confuse thirst cues with hunger cravings. To stay hydrated all day, keep a water bottle within reach.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: Keep those hunger hormones in check with adequate rest.
  • Manage stress: “If you cultivate a healthy lifestyle, those cravings often go away because the body isn’t responding to stress. Try meditation, exercise or reading to settle yourself down in stressful moments.”

Czerwony also emphasizes that it’s OK to ask for help when you’re feeling stuck. “Talk with your primary care physician or a registered dietitian. That’s what we’re here for: to educate and empower you to make better decisions. We can help you choose healthier options and modifications rather than focusing on things you have to cut.”

Healthy alternatives to junk food

When you make an effort to understand what flavors you do and don’t like, it’s easier to find healthier alternatives. Czerwony offers a few ideas to get you started:

Same food, different version

Try changing up the style of food instead of the food itself.

  • Try oven-baked or air-fried versions of your favorite fried foods.
  • Eat lower-sugar versions of your favorite cookies and sweets — or stick to smaller portions.
  • Try pizza with 100% whole grain crust, either made from scratch or at restaurants that offer it. You can also make specialty crusts — made from ingredients such as cauliflower. And don’t skimp on the veggies!
  • Eat potatoes with the skin. The extra fiber in the potato skin helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar in balance.

Try this instead of that

Figure out a great switch to keep you going.

  • Have a chocolate-dipped pretzel or piece of fruit instead of an entire chocolate bar.
  • In recipes, try swapping applesauce for oil or decreasing sugar by at least one-fourth.
  • Next time you want a carbonated drink, opt for sparkling water without sugar or artificial sweeteners.
  • Swap out white potatoes for sweet potatoes, which are lower on the glycemic index and higher in micronutrients.
  • Instead of pretzels and chips, enjoy air-popped popcorn, popcorn made with extra virgin olive oil or unsalted mixed nuts.
  • Try replacing sugary treats with berries and dark chocolate (over 70%). Add a bit of nut butter for protein and healthy fat. Other options include berry herbal teas, frozen berries and homemade nut balls sweetened with two to three medjool dates.

Resisting food cravings is important if you’re trying to lose weight or reduce blood pressure or cholesterol. But there is such a thing as being too restrictive. “If you’re relatively healthy, at a healthy weight, and your blood pressure and blood sugar are on point, feel free to indulge if you plan for it,” Czerwony says.

“Many of my patients eat around their craving. When they want something chocolatey, they eat a piece of fruit that doesn’t hit the spot. Then they go for an ice pop with the same result … and it goes on,” Czerwony says.

Just eat what you’re craving, really enjoy it and be done with it,” she suggests. “That way, you’ll be satisfied and won’t need to go back for more.”

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy


Diet and depression

Just this week, I have seen three patients with depression requiring treatment. Treatment options include medications, therapy, and self-care. Self-care includes things like sleep, physical activity, and diet, and is just as important as meds and therapy — sometimes more so.

In counseling my patients about self-care, I always feel like we don’t have enough time to get into diet. I am passionate about diet and lifestyle measures for good health, because there is overwhelming evidence supporting the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle for, oh, just about everything: preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and mental health disorders, including depression.

Diet and emotional well-being

Diet is such an important component of mental health that it has inspired an entire field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry. Mind-body medicine specialist Eva Selhub, MD has written a superb summary of what nutritional psychiatry is and what it means for you right here on this blog, and it’s worth reading.

What it boils down to is that what we eat matters for every aspect of our health, but especially our mental health. Several recent research analyses looking at multiple studies support that there is a link between what one eats and our risk of depression, specifically. One analysis concluded:

“A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”

Which comes first? Poor diet or depression?

One could argue that, well, being depressed makes us more likely to eat unhealthy foods. This is true, so we should ask what came first, the diet or the depression? Researchers have addressed this question, thankfully. Another large analysis looked only at prospective studies, meaning, they looked at baseline diet and then calculated the risk of study volunteers going on to develop depression. Researchers found that a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet as an example) was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.

So, how should I counsel my patients on diet? There are several healthy options that can be used as a guide. One that comes up again and again is the Mediterranean diet. Another wonderful resource for folks is the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website with an introductory guide to healthy diet.

The bottom line

The gist of it is, eat plants, and lots of them, including fruits and veggies, whole grains (in unprocessed form, ideally), seeds and nuts, with some lean proteins like fish and yogurt. Avoid things made with added sugars or flours (like breads, baked goods, cereals, and pastas), and minimize animal fats, processed meats (sorry, bacon), and butter. Occasional intake of these “bad” foods is probably fine remember, everything in moderation. And, for those who are trying to lose weight, you can’t go wrong with colorful fruits and veggies. No one got fat eating berries or broccoli. Quality matters over quantity. And when it comes to what we eat, quality really, really matters.