carrot or cake to improve mental health

Carrot or Cake to improve your mental health?

While we know that eating a healthy, well balanced diet helps to keep us in shape physically, have you ever considered the effects eating more fruit and veg has on our mental health?

A recent study by the University of Otago found that people who eat more uncooked fruit and vegetables have fewer symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses, compared to those who eat cooked, canned or processed varieties.

What did the study show?

The University of Otago’s study of 422 adults between the ages of 18 and 25 has shown that adults tend to have less depression/anxiety symptoms and are more likely to have a general positive mood if they eat more raw fruit and vegetables in their day-to-day life. The study was predominantly female (66.1%) and included people from a variety of ethnicities (Caucasian, Asian, Black, Mixed, Hispanic and ‘Other’). So, while the study isn’t proof that eating more fruit and veg can improve mental health, there’s certainly a positive correlation between the two.

So what foods should I be eating?

According to the results from the study, the 10 foods which are thought to be the most beneficial for mental health are:

  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Dark leafy greens (such as spinach)
  • Grapefruit
  • Lettuce
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fresh berries
  • Cucumber
  • Kiwifruit

Why is eating more fruit and veg beneficial for mental health?

It’s all well and good to be told that eating more fruit and vegetables can have positive effects on your mental health, but why is this the case?

It is understood that eating raw fruit and vegetables is the best way to get all the possible nutrients from them, and that cooking or processing them in any way will only leach them of their beneficial nutrients and minerals. So, if you’re always consuming processed/cooked food, your body isn’t getting the nourishment it requires, and neither is your brain.

According to this post, “the reason why diet has an effect on mental health is due to the way certain dietary patterns influence parts of the brain”. The study conducted found that the worse your diet, the smaller your hippocampus (the part of your brain which is the centre of emotion, memory and learning), presenting a clear link between what you eat and the impact on your mental health.

More information about improving your mental well-being can be found here.