Fruits and vegetables have long been linked to physical health. A new study by a team of English researchers suggests they also promote mental health.
Researchers at the University of Warwick sought to find what behavioral factors are linked to high and low mental well-being. Using data from the Health Survey for England, their study examined data from 13,983 adults polled for the Health Survey of England.
The results, published Sept. 19 on bmj.com, an online-only, open-source medical journal, show that smoking and fruit and vegetable consumption are the behaviors “most consistently associated with well-being in both sexes.”
“These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver not just of physical but also of mental well-being in the general population,” according to the study.
In addition to smoking and produce consumption, the study analyzed the effects body mass index and alcohol drinking habits had on mental well-being.
The researchers define mental well-being as “more than the absence of mental illness or psychiatric pathology. It implies ‘feeling good’ and ‘functioning well’ and includes aspects such as optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, agency autonomy and good relationships with others.”
The study found that mental well-being was tied “in a linear fashion” to smoking rates and fruit and vegetable consumption.
Being obese and drinking goo much also were linked to low mental well-being.
“Individuals in the highest mental well-being category were more likely never to be smokers and to report higher intakes of fruit and vegetables than those in the low or middle category,” according to the study.
The study cites other research linking produce consumption to positive mental health. In one recent study, mental health was found to be linked to how much produce research subjects consumed the day of and the day before they were studied.
In another study, nine different antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables were shown to be associated with optimism in middle-aged adults.