Go Raw & Fight DepressionNutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Mental health has been a major topic of discussion lately, especially with the shocking deaths by suicide of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
These tragedies highlight the need for us to be more proactive about our mental health. And one way to be more proactive is to be conscious of the state of the foods we eat. Apparently, raw fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce the likelihood of depression as well as help with our overall psychological well-being.
Take, for example, the following study.
Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand looked at more than 400 young adults (between the ages of 18 to 25) in both New Zealand and the United States. This particular age group was selected because younger people tend to have a lower intake of fruits and vegetables, according to the report on the study. In addition to this, younger people appear to be more likely to have mental health disorders.
(Recent data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that in 2016 young adults aged 18-25 years had the highest prevalence of any mental illness (22.1%) compared to adults aged 26-49 years (21.1%) and aged 50 and older (14.5%)).
The research team kept record of the consumption of raw fruits and vegetables versus cooked and processed fruits and vegetables. An example of a food that would fall under “processed” would be canned tomatoes. And surprisingly, some sources say frozen fruit is considered processed.
Along with type of fruit and veggie intake, the subjects’ negative and positive mental health was assessed. Variables such as amount of exercise and sleep, consumption of unhealthy foods, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status were taken into consideration.
“Controlling for the covariates, raw fruit and vegetable consumption predicted lower levels of mental illness symptomatology, such as depression, and improved levels of psychological well-being including positive mood, life satisfaction and flourishing. These mental health benefits were significantly reduced for cooked, canned, and processed fruits and vegetables,” said one of the main doctors involved in the study.
“This research is increasingly vital as lifestyle approaches such as dietary change may provide an accessible, safe, and adjuvant approach to improving mental health.”
Overcooking fruits and veggies causes significant nutrient loss in these naturally nutrient-dense foods. And we need nutrients, like magnesium and iron, to be mentally healthy and avoid depression.
What is particularly interesting about this study is that the team found that the top 10 raw foods related to better mental health were carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens such as spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber and kiwi.
And what’s great about these foods is that they are delicious in their raw, fresh natural state.
Keep in mind…
All of this does not mean you should never cook your veggies. Just don’t over cook them! Lightly blanching or steaming are great ways to preserve the nutrient value. It also means you may want to incorporate more raw veggies into your diet if you are already not doing so, especially if you have a higher risk of mental illness. Remember younger adults have both the highest rates of mental illness and lowest intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Other ways you can be proactive?
- Drink your greens.
If you are not a fan of eating raw kale or spinach, throw these leafy greens in a fruit smoothie. You won’t even know they are there!
- Be prepared.
It is much easier to eat more raw fruits and veggies if you set yourself up for success. Meal prep every week and keep fresh, sliced fruit and veggies, like cucumber and bell pepper, in the refrigerator. The more accessible these foods are, the more you (and kids) will be likely to eat them.
- Test, don’t guess.
For several reasons, such as older age, intestinal issues or even soil quality from which our foods are grown, many of us may not be getting enough of or be able to efficiently absorb critical nutrients from the foods we eat. So we have to get a nutrient test to see if we are nutritionally balanced, meaning we have to make sure we do not have too much or too little of a certain nutrient. This allows us to work with a competent healthcare professional to tweak our diet and/or take quality supplements.
Finally, if you have gut problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or are taking medications for an existing health condition, it is recommended you speak with your doctor about your diet and eating raw foods. Sometimes eating things like raw kale can exacerbate symptoms of IBS (usually in moderation is fine and it depends on the severity of IBS). And foods such as grapefruit may cause a drug interaction.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.