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Fruits and Vegetables for Mental Health: When Frequency Matters


Fruits and Vegetables for Mental Health: When Frequency Matters


"An apple a day keeps the doctor at bay." We know the saying, and it applies to our mental health, too. Fruits and vegetables are highly beneficial for mental health, and people who frequently consume raw ones are less likely to suffer depression and anxiety symptoms.

Researchers have found the best fruits and vegetables that offer the most mental health benefits to include bananas, apples, carrots, citrus fruits, berries, kiwifruit, and dark leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and cucumber. 

If you want to get the maximum mental health benefits from fruits and veggies, you have to eat them raw rather than processed in the form of juice.

But that's not all we now know about fruits and vegetables for mental health. Recent studies show that it isn't about how much fruits and veggies you eat but how often. That is, frequency matters when you're looking to improve your mental health by consuming raw fruits and vegetables.

Frequent fruit consumption improves mental health

New research suggests that people who eat fruits more frequently are more likely to report better mental health and less likely to report symptoms of depression. The research was conducted at the College of Health and Life Sciences, Aston University.

One notable discovery from the research is that frequency matters. How often people eat fruit is more important to their mental health than how much fruit they consume in a week. In other words, eating one fruit a day may be more beneficial than eating seven fruits all in one day. 

Aside from that, the researchers also found that people who consume savory low-nutrient snacks are more likely to report high anxiety levels. This is basically emphasizing what we've always known: junk foods are downright unhealthy.

Finally, there was no significant link between vegetable consumption and mental health. That's simply telling the greens to sit this one out.

Snacks, Fruit and Memory

In the study, People who snacked on low-nutrient savory foods like crisps were more likely to experience everyday memory lapses. By memory or mental lapses, we mean subjective cognitive failures that occur now and then, like forgetting where you kept your pen. This same group of people also reported lower mental well-being with higher symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression from consuming savory snacks.

The researchers found no relationship between such memory lapses and fruits, vegetables, and sweet snacks. So apparently, memory lapse is significantly induced by nutrient-deficient savory snacks/foods.

If you're looking to improve memory with fruits, blueberries are your go-to. They are known to improve cognitive processes in both children and adults.

Note: savory food is not sweet but rather full-flavored and perhaps spicy.

Raw fruits more beneficial for mental health than vegetables

As lead author Nicola-Jayne Tuck affirmed, many studies before now have looked into how fruits and vegetables benefit mental health. However, they most times do not look at fruits separately from vegetables. This latest study has clarified that fruits are indeed the champions here.

But if fruits and vegetables are both rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients influencing brain function, why aren't vegetables as beneficial? Well, it is possible that these nutrients are lost during cooking. So, since you eat fruits raw, you get everything 100%.

Furthermore, how often you eat fruits is more important to your mental health than how much you eat.

Although this study does not examine the biological processes involved, the findings will encourage fruit snacking more frequently. And most importantly, consumption of low-nutrient savory foods will be discouraged as they can increase everyday mental lapses, which reduce psychological health.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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