Eat Five—Stay Alive
By now you’re probably tired of hearing me encourage you to eat your fruits and vegetables. After all, most of us are well aware they’re good for us. They keep us healthy in so many ways. Beneficial bacteria living in your gut love them, for one thing. These are the little germs that help you fight off disease and even help control your appetite. Fruits and vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidant phytonutrients, too. The latter do not appear on nutrition labels. They’re bonus nutrients. Essentially ignored by government-mandated nutrition labeling, they are, nevertheless, important components of a healthy diet.
But not all of the benefits of a plant-based diet are physical. These natural foods are good for your mental health, too
A remarkable new study conducted in Great Britain has concluded that fruit and vegetable consumption go hand in hand with mental health. Remarkable, because someone finally thought to look into this! People with the lowest consumption of plant foods were the most likely to suffer from some form of mental illness, researchers discovered. People with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables were the least likely to suffer from mental illness. People with the highest scores for mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
Commenting on the findings in a press release, Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper's lead author, said: "The data suggest that [the] higher an individual's fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental wellbeing."
Some other eating behaviors also correlated with mental health, but only fruit and vegetable consumption consistently tracked with this aspect of health in both men and women. To be clear, “low mental wellbeing” is strongly associated with mental illnesses.
"It has become very important that we begin to research the factors that enable people to maintain a sense of wellbeing,” said co-author Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown. “Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to be able to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer."
S. Stranges, P. C. Samaraweera, F. Taggart, N.-B. Kandala, S. Stewart-Brown. Major health-related behaviours and mental well-being in the general population: the Health Survey for England. BMJ Open, 2014; 4 (9): e005878 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005878