A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who regularly ate nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables reported more positive mental health.
In addition, these people were less likely to have symptoms of depression, stress, or anxiety compared to those who do not eat these nutrient-rich foods as regularly.
While myriad factors contribute to mental health outcomes, this study strongly suggests nutrition could play a role.
The scientists found that people who regularly consume nutrient-poor foods—processed and sweet foods like chips and cookies—were more likely to experience “everyday mental lapses” in the form of low productivity and forgetfulness which could affect work and home life.
The study also found that frequency mattered: how often fruits were consumed mattered more than the total amount consumed. More research needs to be done to determine the ideal frequency and portions for mental health.
In a separate study, Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, found that consuming more fruits and vegetables was associated with better sleep quality in women.
St. Onge notes that better sleep quality reduces psychological distress which could explain how these foods also better mental health.
St-Onge also says although the study on diet and mental health doesn’t prove a causal effect, she recommends people still eat varying fruits and vegetables daily and limit foods low in nutrients.
“Make those fruits and vegetables as colorful as possible,” St-Onge says. “Those are the foods that have the most antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.”
“It’s exciting to think that even some small changes like replacing cookies or chips with fruit can impact our health,” commented registered dietitian Liz Weinandy.
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