We know eating fruit and vegetables is great for our physical health, but evidence is growing that they can help lower your risk of depression, too.
A diet high in fruit and vegetables can lower the risk of depression, particularly in young people, says a new study.
Researchers at Macquarie University observed data from 12 studies across Europe, the UK, US, Canada and Australia, noting fruit and vegetable consumption and depressive symptoms among people aged 15-45.
They found there was a solid link between eating enough fruit with a decreased risk of developing depression, and an increased risk when fruit consumption was low.
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What’s notable, however, is that there is a significant drop in fruit and vegetable consumption between the ages of 15 and 18, a very vulnerable group for mental health issues.
“The onset of depression symptoms is usually before the age of 20, during the transition to early adulthood,” says the study’s lead author, Masters researcher in public health Putu Novi Arfirsta Dharmayani.
“[Fruit and vegetable] intake from ages 15 to 30 is pretty low, and less than 10 percent of the recommended intake.”
In a broader sense, four out of five Australians aren’t eating enough fruit and vegetables, according to a 2017 CSIRO survey of 145,000 adults. 150g or one medium piece of fruit every day is the recommended daily intake.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure of mechanism as to how fruits and vegetables are thought to lower depression risk, but previous studies have suggested certain nutrients might hold the key.
“There is some evidence of an association with nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and antioxidants such as vitamin C, E and folate, found in these foods,” the authors say.
Previous studies have linked a diet low in folate–found in leafy greens, legumes, and citrus fruits–to depression, as it’s a vital part in the production of the mood-regulating hormones serotonin and dopamine.
“Young Australians should increase their intake of fruit and vegetables and we hope these findings can help in advocating for increased consumption from a young age, in the hope we can help prevent development of depression symptoms,” says Dharmayani.
“With the evidence building there is potential to inform public policy and add positive mental health outcomes to an already extensive list of reasons as to why people should prioritise a healthy diet.”