It’s no secret that eating loads of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables are good for one’s physical health. What you may not be aware of is that a new study also suggests that these can benefit your mental health too. A 2016 study conducted in Australia found out that increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet can also increase a person’s psychological well-being. Another study was conducted to check if the findings were true, this time using the UK Household Longitudinal Study.
Over 40,000 participants were used for this study. Upon analyzing the data, the study showed that the more fruits and vegetables a person eats, there is also an increase in life satisfaction and mental well-being. The data is based on personal reports of the participants over 5 years. It also takes into account other factors than+ can affect one’s mental being, including income, consumption of other foods, and physical health.
The good effects of engaging in physical activities to improve mental health are well recognized. Experts say that incorporating a portion of fruits and vegetables to one’s diet on a daily basis can produce the same beneficial results to one’s mental health that you would get from going for a walk equivalent to 7 to 8 days per month. A portion is the same as one whole piece of fruit, a half cup of chopped fruit or cooked vegetables, or a cup of raw vegetables, roughly the size of a fist.
The results of the study are promising, as it gives light to the possibility that you can improve your mental well-being with something as easy as having a salad as part of a meal or eating an extra piece of fruit daily. The study stresses the importance that their findings alone cannot establish a direct causal link between eating fruits and vegetables and improved psychological health. They also stated that they cannot completely rule out the substation effect.
It is only natural for people to eat a certain amount each day, so for people who eat more fruits and vegetables in their diet may just have less room in their stomach for junk food. The study also took into account only bread and dairy and suggested that future research to build on their research should also consider other kinds of food to rule out any other possibilities. The study, when taken into consideration with other studies that have dealt with this area, shows reassuring evidence, however.
In a random trial that took place in New Zealand, for example, their data showed that different measures of mental health, such as vitality and motivation, significantly improved in their treatment group who were instructed to eat two extra servings of fruits and vegetables every day, for a total of two weeks. However, the study also said that no differences were found for anxiety, mood, and depressive symptoms.
The study also cannot completely discount the idea that people with better levels of mental health might be consuming more fruits and vegetables as an outcome, and the authors of the 2016 Australian study helped explain this with their commentary. According to the authors, the number of portions of fruits and vegetables eaten in a day can help establish whether or not someone will be diagnosed with anxiety or depression in a couple of years.
However, the opposite doesn’t seem to apply here. Having a diagnosis of depression does not seem to be a good indicator of fruit and vegetable consumption in a couple of years after. This implies that it is more likely that mood is influenced by fruits and vegetables and not that eating fruits and vegetables is a result of one’s mood. What is the cause? Several studies, including more recent ones, have already found a connection between eating fruits and vegetables and one’s mental health.
However, trials on a large number of people are still needed to provide conclusive evidence about the causal link between the two. The problem is, randomized controlled trials are pricey, so an alternative to finding the causation is to look at the biological mechanisms that connect the chemicals found in fruits and vegetables. One example is vitamin C and E, both of which have been linked to a decrease in inflammatory markers that are connected to a depressive mood.
More research is needed in the area to come up with more concrete results, but the study adds credibility to the growing stack of evidence that shows the positive relationship between consuming fruits and vegetables and having better levels of mental health. The signs also point toward a causal link between the two factors, making it rather encouraging. Keep in mind that the study does not suggest eating fruits and vegetables instead of getting medical treatment.
It merely advocates a simple way of improving one’s mental well-being by adding more healthy food such as fruits and veggies to your diet. The study was conducted by Neel Ocean and Peter Howley. Ocean is a research fellow in behavioral economics while Howley is an associate economics professor at the University of Leeds. Their study was financially supported by Resilience of the UK Food System Programme by the Global Food Security, with the help and assistance from ESRC, Scottish Government, BBSRC, and NERC.