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Healthy Foods Tied to Better Mental Health

Healthy Foods Tied to Better Mental Health

New findings suggest mental health is correlated to the consumption of fruits and vegetables with a magic number of five portions a day associated with high mental well-being.

Researcher from the University of Warwick discovered 33.5 percent of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 percent who ate less than one portion.

Their study is published in the journal BMJ Open.

Saverio Stranges, M.D., Ph.D., the research paper’s lead author, said, “The data suggest that higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being.”

31.4 percent of those with high mental well-being ate three-four portions and 28.4 percent ate one-two.

Other health-related behaviors were found to be associated with mental well-being, but along with smoking, only fruit and vegetable consumption was consistently associated in both men and women.

Alcohol intake and obesity were not associated with high mental well-being.

Stranges said, “Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. 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.”

Investigators say that low mental well-being is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental well-being is more than the absence of symptoms or illness — it is a state in which people feel good and function well.

Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, and good relationships with others are all part of this state.

Mental well-being is important not just to protect people from mental illness but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.

Sarah Stewart-Brown, Ph.D., a co-author, believes the implications of the research extend to all aspects of society.

“Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles, and social inequalities in health. It has become very important that we begin to research the factors that enable people to maintain a sense of well-being.

“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”.

Researchers used the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) to assess mental well-being.

In the tool, the top 15 percent of participants are categorized as having high mental wellbeing, the bottom 15 percent low and the middle 16-84 percent as middle.

The research involved 14,000 participants in England aged 16 or over, with 56 percent of those being female and 44 percent male, as part of the Health Survey for England.

The survey collected detailed information on mental and physical health, health related behaviors, demographics, and socio-economic characteristics.

Source: University of Warwick

Fruits and vegetables photo by shutterstock.

Healthy Foods Tied to Better Mental Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Healthy Foods Tied to Better Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 25 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.