“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” may be an old adage, but research has consistently proven that a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables has a strong influence on physical health. Not only can eating better help with weight loss and metabolism, but a balanced diet is also essential for healthy bones, digestive health, and cognition.
Lately, research is showing that fruits and vegetables can also improve mental health and well-being, but limited results make these associations difficult to prove.
Researchers from the University of Leeds conducted a large longitudinal study to help add to the growing evidence that fruits and veggies really do impact mental health. The new research was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
The researchers analyzed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey from 2010 through 2017 which included dietary and mental health information on 50,000 individuals who took part in the survey.
Three questions from the survey involved fruit and vegetable consumption and the researchers were able to calculate how many portions of fruits and vegetables each person ate in a day,
The researchers also reviewed survey responses to the General Health Questionnaire which is often used to help screen for different psychiatric disorders.
The results showed a direct relationship between mental well-being and fruit and vegetable consumption.
Adding just an extra portion of fruit or greens had the same positive impact on mental well-being as walking for an extra ten minutes a day for four weeks.
The researchers found that going from a healthy, balanced diet to eating fewer portions of fruit and vegetables adversely impacted mental health and increased emotional distress.
Despite these positive benefits and the well-known impacts of eating healthy, only 1 in 10 Americans meet national fruit and vegetable recommendations, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
More studies are needed to help shed insight on why exactly fruits and vegetables help improve mental well-being, but the research shows a clear link between the two.
“Our findings provide further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruit and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long run, but also their mental well-being in the short run,” the researchers wrote in their study.
By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer