A new study revealed that raw fruits and vegetables are not just good for you nutritionally, but they can also help your mental health. Published in Frontiers in Psychology in December 2020, the study of 1,100 people showed that a combination of proper exercise and sleep, as well as a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, can benefit your mental wellness.
The study was conducted through the University of Otago on young adults from New Zealand and the United States. Shay-Ruby Wickham, who did the study as part of her Master of Science, said, according to Science Daily, “Sleep, physical activity, and a healthy diet can be thought of as three pillars of health, which could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults, a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and well-being is suboptimal.”
Specifically, the study found that those who ate 4.8 servings per day of raw fruits or vegetables reported overall better well-being, but they found that too much fruit and vegetables isn’t necessarily a good thing either. Subjects who ate less than two servings or more than eight servings in a single day reported a lower level of well-being. (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now.)
It’s important to note that simply adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet won’t necessarily up your mental health. Associate Professor Tamlin Conner, of the Department of Psychology, who was the senior author on the study, said their research specifically looked at which young adults are “flourishing versus suffering,” according to Science Daily.
The most important aspect of better mental health, researchers said, is getting the right amount of sleep. This study found that those who slept eight hours per night reported the highest level of well-being and those who slept 9.7 hours per night reported the lowest level of depressive symptoms.
Sleep quality is recommended more so than sleep quantity, as getting too much sleep can have an adverse effect, according to the study. Researchers noted that they view a good night of quality sleep will have much more of a positive effect on you than too many hours of subpar sleep.
Exercise is the third piece of this puzzle, and while they didn’t delve into it too thoroughly, the researchers did call out that it’s an important aspect of your daily routine to maintain positive mental wellness. Both did call out, though, that this study was simply to find a correlation between sleep, diet, exercise, and mental wellness, and further research could and should be done to prove the efficacy of sleep, exercise, and eating fruits and vegetables for mental health benefits.
“We didn’t manipulate sleep, activity, or diet to test their changes on mental health and well-being. Other research has done that and has found positive benefits. Our research suggests that a ‘whole health’ intervention prioritizing sleep, exercise, and fruit and vegetable intake together, could be the next logical step in this research,” Professor Conner said in the study.
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