Raw fruit and vegetables provide better mental health outcomes


April 16, 2018


University of Otago


Researchers have discovered raw fruit and
vegetables may be better for your mental health than cooked, canned and
processed fruit and vegetables.


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.

“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,” she says.

Dr Conner believes this
could be because the cooking and processing of fruit and vegetables has the
potential to diminish nutrient levels.

“This likely limits
the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional

For the study, more than
400 young adults from New Zealand and the United States aged 18 to 25 were
surveyed. This age group was chosen as young adults typically have the lowest
fruit and vegetable consumption of all age groups and are at high risk for
mental health disorders.

The group’s typical
consumption of raw versus cooked and processed fruits and vegetables were
assessed, alongside their negative and positive mental health, and lifestyle
and demographic variables that could affect the association between fruit and
vegetable intake and mental health (such as exercise, sleep, unhealthy diet,
chronic health conditions, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender).

“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,” Dr
Conner says.

* The top 10 raw foods
related to better mental health were: carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy
greens such as spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries,
cucumber, and kiwifruit.


Story Source:

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Journal Reference:

1.    Kate L. Brookie, Georgia
I. Best, Tamlin S. Conner. Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Is Associated
With Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables
. Frontiers
in Psychology
, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018