New research suggests that people who eat lots of fruit are less likely to report symptoms of depression and more likely to report positive well-being. Those who indulge in nutrient-poor snacks, such as chips, are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety.
A study from the UK’s Aston University of 428 adults looked at the relationship between food and psychological health. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the results suggest that how often we eat fruit is more important to our mental well-being than the total amount we consume during a typical week.
After taking demographic and lifestyle factors such as age, general health and exercise into account, the research found that both nutrient-rich fruit and nutrient-poor savory snacks appeared to be linked to psychological health.
Surprisingly, they also found that there was no direct association between eating vegetables and psychological health.
People who frequently snacked on junk food were more likely to experience ‘everyday mental lapses’ and reported lower mental well-being.
‘A greater number of lapses was associated with higher reported symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, as well as lower mental well-being scores.
Examples of these frustrating little everyday mental lapses included forgetting where items had been placed, forgetting the purpose of going into certain rooms, and being unable to retrieve names of acquaintances whose name was on the ‘tip of the tongue.’
Lead author, Ph.D. student Nicola-Jayne Tuck told Neuroscience News that ‘very little is known about how diet may affect mental health and well-being, 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.
‘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,’ she said.
‘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.’
Smart snacking the solution?
Lead researcher Nicola-Jayne Tuck concluded by saying, ‘It is possible that changing what we snack on could be a really simple and easy way to improve our mental well-being.
‘Conversely, it is also possible that the forthcoming restriction of processed snack foods at checkouts [due to start in the UK in October 2022], could not only improve the country’s physical health, but mental health too.
‘Overall, it’s definitely worth trying to get into the habit of reaching for the fruit bowl,’ she said.