Fruits and Vegetables for Mental Health: Raw vs Processed
A study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology looked for differences in the mental health of people who eat raw fruits and vegetables, compared to people who eat processed (cooked or canned) fruits and vegetables. The results were clear: even after controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and health covariates, consuming raw fruits and vegetables was associated with better mental health scores.
Study authors from the University of Otego Department of Psychology, Donedin, New Zealand, point out that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables in general has long been associated with better mental health, however this study examines whether the processing of fruits and vegetables by cooking or canning might affect the bioavailability of micronutrients and other beneficial elements of the produce.
The participants – 422 young adults ages 18 to 25 living in New Zealand and the US – completed online surveys assessing depressive symptoms, anxiety, negative and positive mood, life satisfaction, and flourishing. They also answered questions about lifestyle factors, health conditions, and self-reported their fruit and vegetable intake. After controlling for other factors, the data showed a clear difference: eating raw fruits and vegetables predicted higher mental health scores, compared to processed fruits and vegetables.
Although this study only demonstrated a correlation between raw foods and better mental health, and not a causal relationship, it may lay the groundwork for future studies that could more closely examine the potential benefits of introducing more raw produce into one’s diet, as opposed to processed.
Brookie KL, Best GI and Conner TS (2018) Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Is Associated With Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables. Front. Psychol. 9:487. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487