Could Fruits and Vegetables Improve Mental Health?

By: Amanda Belo

Fruits and vegetables are key to getting the essential nutrients needed for well-functioning bodies, but did you know that it has a drastic impact on your mind?  There is supporting evidence that certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in raw fruits and vegetables could be related to better cognitive and emotional health!

Research has established that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower incidence of mental disorders. This includes lower rates of depression, perceived stress, and negative mood! These people who are consuming more fruits and vegetables also have a higher likelihood of optimal mental states, such as greater happiness, positive mood, life satisfaction, and socio-emotional flourishing, which captures feelings of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life. (Brookie, K.L., Best, G.I., and Conner, T. S., 2018)

A new study proposes that there is more to it than simply eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the way they are prepared may have an effect on your mental health! These researchers found that cooked or canned fruits and vegetables may reduce the availability of the important micronutrients that benefit mental health.

 

The Study:

Participants:

The study analyzed 422 young adults, ages 18–25 (66.1% female) living in New Zealand and the United States. They completed an online survey that assessed typical consumption of raw fruits and vegetables compared with cooked/canned/processed fruits and vegetables; negative and positive mental health (depressive symptoms, anxiety, negative mood, positive mood, life satisfaction, and flourishing); and, covariates, such as socioeconomic status, BMI, sleep, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use.

The Results:

Of the studied foods, the top 10 raw foods related to better mental health were:

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

Raw fruit and vegetable intake predicted high mental health outcomes including reduced depressive symptoms and higher positive mood, but the same processed versions of these foods only predicted higher positive mood.

 

Resources:

Brookie, K.L., Best, G.I., and 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. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487