The intake of raw fruits and vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, bananas and apples is associated with better mental health than cooked or canned fruits and vegetables.
Eating healthy foods helps improve your physical and mental health. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of micronutrients that are important for a good physical and mental functioning, among which vitamins and minerals.* Now, scientists at the University of Otago, New Zealand have evidence that the consumption of raw vegetables and fruits results in a better mental health than the intake of processed fruits or vegetables.
The 422 participants in the study were young adults between 18 and 25 years old. Since this age group typically has the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption, and are at high risk for mental health disorders. Participants were asked to complete an online survey indicating their socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors such as sleep habits, physical activity, and any known health conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and food allergies.
Next, the survey contained a range of dietary assessment questions. Respondents were asked how many times per week they ate raw or processed vegetables². And how many times raw or processed fruits. Also what types of food they consumed, as well as the number of servings per category.
Finally, mental health was measured. Are there any signs of anxiety or depression? Is the respondent in a positive or negative mood? Is he or she satisfied with life? And what about his or her well-being?
The study provided evidence that the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables is more strongly associated with better mental health than the consumption of cooked or canned (processed) fruits and vegetables. ‘So far we always focussed on the portions of fruits and vegetables we should eat a day,’ says doctor Tamlin Conner, Psychology Senior Lecturer and lead author, ‘However, it may also be important to consider the way the products are prepared. Because the cooking and processing likely has the potential to diminish nutrient levels which are essential for optimal emotional functioning.’
The raw vegetables and fruits considered most significantly to mental health are:
- dark leafy greens like kale and spinach
- red onion
Grapefruit, berries, kiwifruit and stone fruit such as peaches and apricots, but also pear, frozen berries (eaten raw) and grapes were related to positive mood. As for processed vegetables: pumpkin, mixed frozen vegetables, potatoes, broccoli, and eggplant contribute to positive mood.
*The most well-known minerals are magnesium, sodium, zinc and calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Minerals that occur in very small amounts are called trace elements.
² Processed being: cooked, frozen or canned.
Source: Frontiers in Psychology – ScienceDaily