Eating raw carrots and spinach can boost ward off depression because they contain more ‘essential’ nutrients, a study suggests.
Scientists found raw vegetables – and fruit – are better for mental health than those which are cooked, tinned or processed.
People who eat more raw fruit and vegetables also had improved levels of psychological wellbeing, including positive mood and life satisfaction, researchers discovered.
Health campaigns have traditionally focussed on the amount of fruit and vegetables people should eat, such as the five a day message.
But the new study, by researchers in New Zealand, implies that the way in which they are prepared is also important to consider.
Many people cook spinach and carrots, which is a major part of the traditional English roast dinner. However, fruits are often consumed raw.
Scientists found raw vegetables, such as carrots and spinach, are better for mental health than those which are cooked, tinned or processed
Dr Tamlin Conner, from the University of Otago, led the study, which analysed the eating habits of more than 400 adults.
She said: ‘Our research has highlighted the consumption of fruit and veg in their “unmodified” state is more strongly associated with better mental health.’
This was compared to cooked, canned or processed fruit and vegetables, according to the study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
This could be because cooking and processing of fruit and vegetables can cut their nutrient levels, Dr Conner suggested.
She said: ‘This limits the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional functioning.’
Participants in the study were aged between 18 and 25 – the age group that has the lowest consumption of fruit and veg, on average.
WHAT WERE THE TEN RAW FRUIT AND VEGETABLES THAT HAD THE BIGGEST EFFECT?
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach
- Citrus fruits
- Fresh berries
Their typical consumption of raw, cooked or processed fruit and veg were assessed, and they were quizzed on their mental health.
Other factors that can play a part on mental health were studied, such as exercise, sleep, chronic health conditions and overall diets.
The study showed that people who consumed more raw fruit and vegetables had lower mental illness symptoms, such as depression.
They also had improved levels of psychological wellbeing, including positive mood and life satisfaction, researchers found.
These mental health benefits were significantly reduced for cooked, canned, and processed fruits and vegetables.
Dr Conner said: ‘This research is increasingly vital as lifestyle approaches such as dietary change may provide an accessible, safe, and adjuvant approach to improving mental health.’
The study comes after a nutritionist told DailyMail.com that chopping vegetables before eating them boosts their nutrients.
Carly Feigan, New York-based nutritionist and owner of Head to Health, said slicing the veggies can release healthy enzymes that support digestion.
WHAT DO YOU REALLY GAIN BY EATING RAW?
Raw food enthusiasts like Megan Fox praise the no-cook diet for requiring less calories to get more nutrients and feel fuller than they would from eating cooked meals, but nutritionists say that this isn’t necessarily the case.
Depending on the particular nutrients you are interested in – and the ingredients you hope to get them from – eating raw may be better for achieving some goals while cooking your food may boost your intake of other vitamins and minerals.
‘Some vegetables, you get more [nutrients] when they are raw, some when they are cooked, it really varies,’ says Keri Glassman, a New York City nutritionist.
DailyMail.com broke down the surprising nutritional differences (or lack thereof) between raw and cooked ingredients in a popular raw vegan recipe.
You need about one-and-a-half time as many cooked carrots to get the same nutrients that are in one cup of the raw root vegetable, but for this recipe, that’s only half a cup more
Fiber 3.6 g
Vitamin C 7.6 mg
Potassium 410 mg
Fiber 2.3 g
Vitamin C 2.8 mg
Potassium 183 mg
Ginger gives up its nutrients to the body much more readily when it is cooked, so you only need a quarter of a tablespoon of the spicy root cooked, compared to a full raw tablespoon