Good news healthy eaters: a new study out of the UK suggests people who routinely eat more fruit in their diets report greater mental well-being and less depression than those who do not.
Researchers from Aston University concluded that regular fruit consumption (not necessarily total fruit consumption) is important to our psychological health. Conversely, participants who regularly ate salty, processed snacks like potato chips reported higher levels of anxiety than the fruit consumers.
The study surveyed over 400 British residents and aimed to discover a link between regular diet and psychological health. The research team tried to take age, exercise, and other lifestyle factors into account; but the evidence was clear: both fruit and processed foods had a direct link to mental health, particularly depression and anxiety.
In fact, participants who regularly snacked on the bad foods reported “everyday mental lapses” which affected mental well-being and led to subjective cognitive degeneration. Sugary snacks did not produce the same negative results, nor did vegetable consumption produce similarly positive results to the fruit. The data was essentially split between the two types of eaters: regular fruit consumers, and regular savory (salty) snack consumers.
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The mental lapses reported were not all that serious — basic forgetfulness, brain fog, and inability to remember names. But the anxiety and depression linked to the savory, processed snacks is cause for concern.
Lead author, Ph.D. student Nicola-Jayne Tuck commented that “very little is known about how diet may affect mental health and well-being. And while we did not directly examine causality here, our findings could suggest that frequently snacking on nutrient-poor savory foods may increase everyday mental lapses, which in turn reduces psychological health.”
She also noted that few studies ever consider “healthy” food intake frequency rather than total amounts consumed.
“Other studies have found an association between fruit and vegetables and mental health, but few have looked at fruit and vegetables separately—and even fewer evaluate both frequency and quantity of intake,” she said.
Furthermore, the rawness of fruit may be the key to its benefits in the study.
“Both fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, fiber and essential micronutrients which promote optimal brain function, but these nutrients can be lost during cooking. As we are more likely to eat fruit raw, this could potentially explain its stronger influence on our psychological health,” she added.
“Overall, it’s definitely worth trying to get into the habit of reaching for the fruit bowl.”