Eating more fruit may keep depression away, improve mental well-being

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but researchers from Aston University have found that eating more fruit may also keep the therapist at bay. Their study finds people who habitually and frequently eat fruit are more likely to report greater positive mental well-being and less likely to experience depressive symptoms.

Notably, this work indicates how often we eat fruit is more influential on mental health than the overall amount of fruit we consume over the course of a usual week.

On the other end of the snack spectrum, the study also suggests people who eat more “savory” snacks like chips tend to deal with more anxiety.

“Very little is known about how diet may affect mental health and wellbeing, and while we did not directly examine causality here, our findings could suggest that frequently snacking on nutrient-poor savory foods may increase everyday mental lapses, which in turn reduces psychological health,” says lead study author and PhD student Nicola-Jayne Tuck in a university release.

“Other studies have found an association between fruit and vegetables and mental health, but few have looked at fruit and vegetables separately – and even fewer evaluate both frequency and quantity of intake.”

What about vegetables?

The research team surveyed 428 adults in the United Kingdom for this study. More specifically, they were looking for any and all connections between eating habits (fruits, vegetables, sweet and savory snacks) and mental health.

After accounting for demographic and lifestyle factors including overall health, age, and exercise, the analysis revealed that both nutrient-rich fruits and nutrient-poor savory snacks have a connection to psychological health, albeit in different ways. Interestingly, the team did not find a direct association between vegetable consumption and mental health.

Regardless of overall fruit consumption quantity, the more often an individual ate fruit the lower they scored for depression (and the higher for well-being). Meanwhile, people who usually snacked on nutrient-poor foods like chips were more likely to report everyday mental lapses (or subjective cognitive failures) and lower overall mental well-being. More lapses displayed an association with higher levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as lower mental well-being.

Conversely, however, researchers did not observe a link between those lapses and fruits, veggies, or sweet snacks. This indicates something unique is going on when it comes to mental health, “everyday mental lapses,” and nutrient-poor savory snacks.

What exactly is an everyday mental lapse?

Examples from the study authors include forgetting where you put an item like your keys, forgetting the reason you walked into a certain room, and failing to remember the names of acquaintances.

“Both fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, fiber and essential micronutrients which promote optimal brain function, but these nutrients can be lost during cooking. As we are more likely to eat fruit raw, this could potentially explain its stronger influence on our psychological health,” Tuck explains.

“It is possible that changing what we snack on could be a really simple and easy way to improve our mental wellbeing. Conversely, it is also possible that the forthcoming restriction of processed snack foods at checkouts, due to come in this October, could not only improve the country’s physical health, but mental health too,” the researcher concludes.

“Overall, it’s definitely worth trying to get into the habit of reaching for the fruit bowl.”

The findings appear in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Comments

  1. Every day I eat 10 apples and immediately go to the psychologist’s office to watch them get blasted 20 feet into the drywall after being exposed to my ultraviolet auro.

  2. Are we sure the relationship doesn’t go the other way? People suffering from more anxiety, etc. choose savory snacks and those enjoying mental well-being and stability are more likely to choose fruit? Just curious.

    1. The question, as always, is which came first. In general people love excuses and fast to embrace playing victim. Success in life is a choice, and much of why we feel depressed, angry or emotionally unhinged has to do with unresolved pain from the past.
      Answer for yourself: who hurt you?
      And then forgive them all, and let the healing begin.

    1. About 15 years ago, I read an article in a national trade magazine for apple growers which was about the planned discontinuing of apple varieties, like Jonathan apples, that had been around for a century. Why? Because university farms no longer got royalty payments on them. So the solution? Phase them out and replace them with recently developed varieties. Jonathan was my favorite apple – not too sweet. But the pressure today is on sweeter and sweeter fruit (which might be good at first bite, but tastes too sweet when you eat more), and more durable fruit (ships well, stores well, but tastes like cardboard – the Red Delicious). Yes, some old varieties, like Red and Golden Delicious apples were kept. The Golden Delicious is a good variety but even it is beginning to disappear.

  3. Being healthy and physically fit in general leads to happiness, but it takes work. Most are just too lazy and undisciplined to expend effort to achieve, so they pop pills instead for an inferior result.
    We do it to ourselves folks! Most prefer the delusion of playing victim over the reality of personal responsibility. Life is governed by choice – oh no, not me!

  4. The problem with greater than 90% of ALL research is that the conclusions aren’t supported by the data. This is according to Stanford’s Dr. John Ioannidis, widely considered the foremost authority on analyzing research. (See “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science” in the August 2010 edition of “The Atlantic”.)

    “Science is a noble endeavor, but it’s also a low-yield endeavor. I’m not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life.”
    –John Ioannidis

    Put simply, put this research and the vast majority of all the rest in the “hold” bin. It’s likely to be
    debunked in the future

  5. There are older white papers that clearly showed healthy habits reduce stress and depression, I believe one of the researchers said that “There is no silver bullet but taking care of one’s self helps”.

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