Can eating fruit more often keep depression at bay?

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People who frequently eat fruit are more likely to report greater positive mental wellbeing and are less likely to report symptoms of depression than those who do not, according to research.

On the other hand, people who eat savoury snacks such as crisps, which are low in nutrients, are more likely to report greater levels of anxiety, said researchers from Aston University in the UK.

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study surveyed 428 adults from across the UK and looked at the relationship between their consumption of fruit, vegetables, sweet and savoury food snacks, and their psychological health.

The results showed that both nutrient-rich fruit and nutrient-poor savoury snacks appeared to be linked to psychological health. But no direct association was found between eating vegetables and psychological health.

“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 savoury foods may increase everyday mental lapses, which in turn reduces psychological health,” said Nicola-Jayne Tuck lead author and doctoral student at the varsity.

“Both fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, fibre 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 said.

Based on the survey, the more often people ate fruit, the lower they scored for depression and the higher for mental wellbeing, independent of the overall quantity of fruit intake.

People who frequently snacked on nutrient-poor savoury foods (such as crisps) were more likely to experience ‘everyday mental lapses’ (known as subjective cognitive failures) and report lower mental wellbeing. A greater number of lapses was associated with higher reported symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, and lower mental wellbeing scores.

“It is possible that changing what we snack on could be a really simple and easy way to improve our mental wellbeing,” Tuck said.

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