Carrots and bananas are some of the best raw foods to eat for a healthy mind

Natural is still the best. That’s the message from University of Otago researchers who found that raw fruits and vegetables may be better for mental health than their cooked, canned, and processed varieties.

Dr. Tamlin Conner, psychology senior lecturer and the study’s lead author, observed that through the years, public health campaigns have concentrated on the amount of fruit and vegetables one must consume (e.g. at least five times a day). But the recently-published research in Frontiers in Psychology discovered that especially for mental health, food preparation and the manner in which the food is consumed, are just as important.

Conner says eating fruits and vegetables in their unmodified, or raw state is strongly linked to improved mental health compared to cooking, canning and processing them. She explains that cooking and processing can decrease the fruits and vegetables’ nutrient levels, which are essential for maximum “emotional functioning.”

Conner and her research team surveyed 400 adults aged 18 to 25 from New Zealand and the United States. The researchers chose this age group because young adults in this age group usually have the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. They are also most susceptible to mental health disorders.

Researchers analyzed the group’s usual consumption of raw versus cooked and processed fruits and vegetables. Their mental well-being, lifestyle and demographic traits that affect fruit and vegetable intake in connection with mental health (exercise, sleep, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender) were also assessed.

C0nner reports that her findings showed lower levels of mental illness among young adults who consumed raw fruit and vegetables. They had reduced levels of depression. They showed an upbeat mood. They were satisfied with what’s happening to them, and their life was flourishing. She added that these health benefits were “significantly reduced” for the group which consumed cooked, canned, and processed fruits and vegetables.

The study’s lead author added that their research is valuable in looking for lifestyle approaches like dietary changes that can provide accessible and safe ways to boost mental health.

Eating apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit is not the only key to mental health.

A healthy mindset that allows us to overcome life’s trials is just as important. Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D. shows how we can achieve this.

  • Count your blessings – Gratitude, improved well-being, mental health, and happiness are all connected to each other. Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal or making a gratitude list daily helps a lot in making us feel better. Make it a habit to count your blessings. You might run out of things to list down in your gratitude journal.
  • Exercise – Your body releases stress-busting, mood-enhancing endorphins when you do. No matter how busy you are, try to find time to take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a short walk, or do a few stretching exercises. Sunlight also raises your levels of the happy hormone serotonin.
  • Focus on the now – This makes us let go of past hurts and other negative feelings that bring us down. Start by being sharply aware of routine activities like brushing your teeth, making your bed, taking a shower, having lunch, cooking and walking home. Take note of details like the sound of children laughing, the bright color of the flowers lining the street, the aroma of the food you’re cooking, the strong taste of the chili sauce you’re making. When your mind wanders, focus on what you are doing again.
  • See yourself in a positive light – The way you see yourself has a powerful effect on how you feel. This means that low self-esteem makes us look at the world in a negative way. Boost your self-esteem by becoming your own cheerleader. Speak words of affirmation, like “You can do it” and “You’ll be okay” every day, and see how they keep your spirits up.

Mental health is a combination of what you eat and how you feel. You can start aiming for this now, so you can feel happier a lot sooner.

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