The study analysed the eating habits of 422 young adults living in New Zealand and the United States, particularly their consumption of fruits and vegetables and the way in which the produce was prepared. They also assessed their mental health and moods and accounted for factors like socio-economic status, body mass index, sleep, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use.
Their findings showed that raw fruit and vegetable intake was linked to reduced depressive symptoms, higher positive mood and life satisfaction; while processed fruit and vegetable consumption only resulted in a higher positive mood.
They also narrowed down the top 10 raw foods related to better mental health: carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit.
“If our patterns are confirmed in intervention studies, it would suggest that health policies could focus on promoting the consumption of raw and unprocessed produce for optimal well-being,” the researchers state.
As for why raw produce might be better for mental health, the researchers speculates that the cooking process has the potential to reduce nutrient levels and limit their benefits.