5 Fruit and Veggie Servings a Day May Boost Mental Health

Eating the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is associated with high mental well-being.

Eating the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is associated with high mental well-being.

Consuming the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables may benefit your mind as well as your body, the results of an English study suggest.

The study, published online September 19, 2014, in BMJ Open, analyzed the associations of behavioral risk factors with high and low mental wel-lbeing. Although mental well-being is related to mental illness, the term carries multiple meanings, including optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, agency autonomy, and healthy relationships with others, the study authors noted.

Using data on 13,983 adults who participated in the 2010 and 2011 Health Survey of England, the researchers analyzed the effects of body weight, smoking, alcohol consumption, and fruit and vegetable intake on mental well-being, which was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale, in which the top 15% of participants were categorized as having high mental well-being, and the bottom 15% were considered to have low mental well-being.

The results indicated significant correlations between mental well-being and several risk factors. For instance, individuals in the lowest mental well-being category were more likely to be obese, not drink or to quit drinking alcohol, be current smokers, and consume less fruit and vegetables than those in the middle and highest well-being categories. In contrast, individuals with the highest mental well-being scores were more likely to have never smoked, in addition to reporting higher intake of fruits and vegetables. Overall, 33.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, while just 6.8% ate less than 1 portion.

Moreover, the risk for low mental well-being was increased among obese individuals and decreased among those who reported a sensible intake of alcohol. The risk also increased in a linear fashion as smoking increased and fruit and vegetable intake decreased. High mental well-being was less likely among ex-smokers and those who ate fewer than the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

“The novel finding in our study is that, along with smoking, the behavioral risk factor most consistently associated with mental health was fruit and vegetable consumption,” the authors wrote.

More research is needed, however, to determine whether fruit and vegetable consumption causes improved mental health, the researchers suggested.

“Fruit and vegetable consumption might also be acting as a proxy for a complex set of highly correlated dietary exposures, including fish and whole grains, which might contribute to the observed associations.”