The Best Diet For Good Mental Health

The ten best foods to feel more positive about life and have a lower risk of depression.

The ten best foods to feel more positive about life and have a lower risk of depression.

Eating more raw fruits and vegetables is linked to better mental health, research finds.

Those who eat more raw fruit and vegetables tend to feel more positive about life and have a lower risk of depression.

The maximum benefit to mental health came from just over 6 servings of raw fruits and vegetables per day, the study found.

Cooked and canned vegetables do not provide the same boost to mental health.

Apples and raw bananas were particularly effective for mental health.

Other studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is good for mental health.

One study has found that the Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of depression by up to one third.

Here are ten typical ingredients of the Mediterranean diet:

  • Green leafy vegetables,
  • other vegetables,
  • nuts,
  • berries,
  • beans,
  • whole grains,
  • fish,
  • poultry,
  • olive oil,
  • and wine.

Switching to a healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil could reduce depression symptoms in just three weeks, one study has found.

Even relatively small changes to diet have been shown to have a positive effect on mental health.

For the current study, though, over 400 people in the US and New Zealand were surveyed about what they ate and their mental health.

The results suggest that the ten best foods for mental health are:

  1. carrots,
  2. bananas,
  3. apples,
  4. dark leafy greens such as spinach,
  5. grapefruit,
  6. lettuce,
  7. citrus fruits,
  8. fresh berries,
  9. cucumber,
  10. and kiwifruit.

Dr Connor, study co-author, explained:

“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.”

Best diet changes with age

There is some evidence that the best diet for mental health changes with age.

The mood of young people — aged between 18 and 30 — benefits from neurotransmitter precursors provided by foods like meat.

However, mature adults are in a better mood if they eat foods that boost their antioxidant levels, such as fruit.

Foods to avoid

Whatever age you are, though, one food to avoid for good mental health is sugar.

Research finds that a high sugar intake is linked to anxiety and depression.

Similarly, fast foods, cake and highly processed meats are also linked to worse mental health.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Brookie et al., 2018).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

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.