Aston University study found frequent fruit eaters had greater positive mental well-being.
People who frequently eat fruit are more likely to report greater positive psychological well-being and are less likely to report symptoms of depression compared to those who do not, according to new research from Aston University’s College of Health and Life Sciences.
These findings suggest that how often we eat fruit is more important to our mental health than the total amount we consume during a typical week.
In addition, the researchers found that people who eat savory snacks such as potato chips, which are low in nutrients, are more likely to report greater levels of anxiety.
For the study, 428 adults from across the UK were surveyed. The researchers looked at the relationship between their consumption of fruit, vegetables, sweet and savory food snacks, and their psychological health. The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
After taking demographic and lifestyle factors including age, general health, and exercise into account, the scientists found that both nutrient-rich fruit and nutrient-poor savory snacks appeared to be linked to psychological health. They also discovered that there was no direct association between eating vegetables and psychological health.
Based on the survey, the more often people ate fruit, the higher they scored for mental well-being and the lower they scored for depression. This was independent of the overall amount of fruit intake.
People who frequently snacked on nutrient-poor savory foods (such as potato chips) were more likely to experience ‘everyday mental lapses’ (known as subjective cognitive failures) and report lower mental well-being. A greater number of lapses was associated with higher reported symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, and lower mental well-being scores.
By contrast, there was no link between these everyday memory lapses and fruit and vegetable intake or sweet snacks, suggesting a unique relationship between these nutrient-poor savory snacks, everyday mental lapses, and psychological health.
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’.
Nicola-Jayne Tuck, lead author and PhD student, commented: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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 come this October, 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.”
Reference: “Frequency of fruit consumption and savory snacking predict psychological health; selective mediation via cognitive failures” by Nicola-Jayne Tuck, Claire V. Farrow and Jason Michael Thomas, 26 May 2022, British Journal of Nutrition.