A 2018 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand analyzed the data on raw fruits and vegetables, and their link to mental health. The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, also listed the top 10 raw foods related to that link, which include lemons, oranges, and the citrus family.
The full top ten list includes:
- dark leafy greens,
- citrus fruits,
- fresh berries,
- cucumber, and
Consuming raw fruits and vegetables was compared to cooked, canned, and otherwise processed produce.Dr. Tamlin Conner, Psychology Senior Lecturer and lead author of the study, commented in the Frontiers blog.
“Our research has highlighted that the consumption of fruit and vegetables in their ‘unmodified’ state is more strongly associated with better mental health compared to cooked/canned/processed fruit and vegetables,” she says.
It is believed that the process of cooking or preserving fruits and vegetables diminishes the body’s ability to deliver the nutrients to tissues.
More than 420 adults aged 18 to 25 from New Zealand and the United States were part of the study, which surveyed them on their mental health and lifestyle as well as fruit and vegetable consumption.
What they found:
- Consumption of raw fruits and vegetables was associated with lower levels of depression and other symptoms of mental illness.
- The benefits were significantly reduced when the produce was cooked, canned, or processed.
Citrus fruits, along with the other fruits and veggies on the top ten list, are loaded with micronutrients. Antioxidants have also been associated with positive mental health effects. It is believed that cooking and processing reduces the amount that your body is able to absorb.
- Along with reduced depressive symptoms, raw fruits and veggies were linked to higher positive mood, general satisfaction with life and feelings of wellbeing.
- Processed fruits and vegetables were associated with a higher positive mood only.
From the study:
Conclusions: Raw FVI, but not processed FVI, significantly predicted higher mental health outcomes when controlling for the covariates. Applications include recommending the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables to maximize mental health benefits.