Eating raw fruits and vegetables is linked to better mental health, new research finds.
People eating raw fruit and veg were at lower risk of depression and more likely to be flourishing and feeling positive about life.
Raw bananas and apples were particularly beneficial, along with ‘salad fixings’.
Just over 6 servings of raw fruit and vegetables provided the maximum benefit to mental health.
Cooked, canned or processed fruits and vegetables were not linked to the same boost.
Dr Tamlin Conner, who led the research, said:
“Our research has highlighted that the consumption of fruit and vegetables in their ‘unmodified’ state is more strongly associated with better mental health compared to cooked/canned/processed fruit and vegetables.”
The ten best foods for mental health were:
- dark leafy greens such as spinach,
- citrus fruits,
- fresh berries,
- and kiwifruit.
The study surveyed over 400 people in the US and New Zealand about their dietary habits and mental health.
Young people aged 18 to 25 were chosen for the study as this age range is typically at highest risk for mental health problems.
Dr Connor explained the results:
“Controlling for the covariates, raw fruit and vegetable consumption predicted lower levels of mental illness symptomology, such as depression, and improved levels of psychological wellbeing including positive mood, life satisfaction and flourishing.
These mental health benefits were significantly reduced for cooked, canned, and processed fruits and vegetables.
This research is increasingly vital as lifestyle approaches such as dietary change may provide an accessible, safe, and adjuvant approach to improving mental health.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Brookie et al., 2018).