- A study discovered that frequent fruit eaters had higher levels of positive mental wellbeing.
- The study polled 428 adults to determine the link between their consumption of fruits and vegetables, sweet and savory food snacks, and their psychological health.
- The more often people ate fruit, the lower their depression score and the higher their mental well-being score.
According to new research from Aston University's College of Health and Life Sciences, people who eat fruit frequently report greater positive mental wellbeing and are less likely to report symptoms of depression than those who do not.
The findings of the researchers suggest that the frequency with which we consume fruit is more important to our psychological health than the total amount we consume in a typical week.
The researchers also discovered that people who consume savory snacks like crisps, which are low in nutrients, are more likely to report higher levels of anxiety.
The study, which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, surveyed 428 adults from across the UK to examine the relationship between their consumption of fruit, vegetables, sweet and savory food snacks, and their psychological health.
After accounting for demographic and lifestyle factors such as age, general health, and exercise, the study discovered that both nutrient-rich fruit and nutrient-poor savory snacks appeared to be associated with psychological health. They also discovered that there was no link between eating vegetables and psychological health.
According to the survey, the more frequently people ate fruit, the lower their depression score and the higher their mental wellbeing score, regardless of overall fruit intake.
People who frequently snacked on nutrient-deficient savory foods (such as crisps) were more likely to have 'everyday mental lapses' (also known as subjective cognitive failures) and report lower mental wellbeing. A higher number of lapses was linked to more anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms, as well as lower mental wellbeing scores.
There was no link between these daily memory lapses and fruit and vegetable intake or sweet snacks, implying a unique relationship between these nutrient-poor savory snacks, daily mental lapses, and psychological health.
For example, forgetting where items had been placed, forgetting the purpose of going into certain rooms, and being unable to recall the names of acquaintances whose names were on the 'tip of the tongue' were all examples of these frustrating little everyday mental lapses.
"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 frequent snacking on nutrient-poor savory foods may increase everyday mental lapses, which in turn reduces psychological health," said lead author, Ph.D. student Nicola-Jayne Tuck.
"Other studies have found a link between fruit and vegetables and mental health, but few have looked at fruit and vegetables separately - and even fewer have evaluated both frequency and quantity of intake."
"Both fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, fiber, and essential micronutrients that support optimal brain function; however, these nutrients can be lost during cooking." Because we are more likely to eat fruit raw, this could explain why it has a stronger impact on our psychological health.
"It's possible that changing our snacking habits could be a really simple and easy way to improve our mental health." Conversely, it is possible that the upcoming restriction on processed snack foods at checkouts, which is set to take effect in October, will not only improve the country's physical health, but also its mental health.
"Overall, it's worth attempting to develop the habit of reaching for the fruit bowl."