Raw fruits and vegetables may help to improve mental health. In fact, new research suggests eating certain types of produce raw may boost your mood and reduce depressive symptoms more than if the fruits and veggies are cooked or processed.
Seeking the feel good factor? Go natural.
That is the simple message from University of Otago researchers who have discovered raw fruit and vegetables may be better for your mental health than cooked, canned and processed fruit and vegetables.
Dr Tamlin Conner, Psychology Senior Lecturer and lead author, says public health campaigns have historically focused on aspects of quantity for the consumption of fruit and vegetables (such as 5+ a day).
However, the study, just published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that for mental health in particular, it may also be important to consider the way in which produce was prepared and consumed.
The HealthSite.com quoted lead author Tamlin Conner, as saying, “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.” However, when the fruits and vegetables are cooked, canned and processed, they lose their mental health benefits as the process potentially diminishes the nutrient levels, Conner noted.
Health.com took a closer look at which fruits and veggies rated highest in the study.
Overall, the 10 foods in the study that were most strongly associated with positive mental-health outcomes were carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens (such as spinach), grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit.
In the raw vegetable category, celery, cabbage, red onion, tomato, and mushrooms were also associated with positive mood. The authors note that these veggies can be considered “salad fixings,” and they cite previous research linking salad consumption with lower stress levels. In the processed produce category, pumpkin, mixed frozen vegetables, potatoes and sweet potatoes, broccoli, and eggplant were linked to positive mood, as well.
Metro.com pointed out that researchers “knew there were a whole host of variables that could influence mental health and nutritional intake, so the study considered participants’ exercise habits, overall diet, existing health conditions, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status. And even after controlling all of those factors, they claim that the link between raw fruit and veg and positive mental health outcomes are still significant.”
We’d love to hear what you think about this new research. Will you be more likely to eat your fruits and veggies raw if it may help your mental health? Generating conversations around interesting new research that could affect the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!