A team of researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand decided to conduct a study into the impact that raw fruit and vegetables have on mental health compared to processed fruits and vegetables. This differs from other previous studies on fruit and vegetables that focused purely on the quantity consumed instead of on how each piece was processed.
The researchers’ aim was to see which foods in particular had the most impact on mental health and well being and which foods had little to no affect.
The study wasn’t designed to understand why foods have in impact on mental health, well being and mood, but instead to monitor how much of an impact the food we eat has on our psychological well being.
What did the study involve?
The study assessed 422 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 (66.15% female) that were from New Zealand and America. The reason this age group was chosen over other age groups is because previous studies have shown that not only do they eat the least amount of fruits and vegetables, they are also most at risk of developing mental health problems.
In order to get the most precise results from the study, researchers also considered other factors such as the exercise habits of each participant, their overall diet, any existing health conditions, their socioeconomic status, their ethnicity and their gender – all factors that could impact on the results. Each participant also underwent a screening for mental health symptoms before beginning the study.
What did the results show?
The results of the study concluded that the participants who consumed raw fruits and vegetables had experienced a significant increase in their overall mental health and well being. Each participant was said to have lower levels of depression and improved psychological well being.
By contrast, participants that consumed fruit and vegetables that had been processed, cooked or canned still saw an increase in their mood but didn’t experience any long-term benefits on their mental health overall.
Researchers believe that this is due to the fact that fruits and vegetables lose a significant amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients during the cooking, canning and prepping process, making them less beneficial for the individual consuming them. Instead, if the vegetable cannot be eaten raw, researchers recommend cooking it first and then prepping and cutting after it’s cooked through. This way, as much nutritional value will be retained as possible.
Which foods have the most impact on mental health and wellbeing?
Out of all the raw fruits and vegetables that were eaten throughout the study, ten were found to have the most significant impact. These were: carrots, apples, dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, grapefruit, bananas, lettuce, fresh berries, citrus fruits, kiwi fruits and cucumber.
Along with these foods, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, red onion and tomatoes were also linked to positive moods as well as pumpkin, potatoes and sweet potatoes, mixed frozen vegetables, eggplant and broccoli.
What can you do?
Trying to incorporate more raw fruits and vegetables within your diet and relying less on processed, cooked and canned fruits and vegetables will significantly improve your mental health and wellbeing. Enjoy unprocessed fruits and vegetables as often as possible with your meals or as healthy snacks throughout the day.
Eve Crabtree works on behalf of a company called Go Go Fruit Basket who specialise in supplying fruit and sweet treat baskets for any occasion – a healthier alternative to traditional gift baskets. Because of her passion for healthy food, she keeps up to date with the latest breakthroughs in the health and well being industry and regularly tests her hand at healthy baking recipes during her spare time.
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