One of the latest studies to support raw foods is from the University of Otago in New Zealand, where researches found eating raw fruits and vegetables has a better effect on mental health than cooked, canned or processed fruits and vegetables.
“A few years ago, I ran a study where we gave people fresh fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, kiwifruit, apples and oranges. We found people reported increases in positive mood in just under two weeks,” says Dr Tamlin Conner, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Otago. “We didn’t find that increase for people who ate cooked fruits and vegetables – people who ate them raw showed the greatest increase in wellbeing.”
Dr Conner’s latest study explored these findings and confirmed the positive relationship between raw fruits and vegetables and better mental health.
“We are not advocating a raw diet – we didn’t test that – but the study suggests we should aim to eat most of our five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit in their raw and unprocessed forms,” she says. “There was a strong association between raw fruits and vegetables and lower depressive symptoms, higher positive mood, greater wellbeing and higher flourishing – a feeling of purpose and that you are thriving, not just surviving.”
Dr Conner says when scoring depression, a score of 16 is considered the benchmark. Eating zero serves of raw fruits and veges daily earns a depression score of 18 – but eating five serves of raw fruits and vegetables daily produces a healthier score of 10. Raw fruits and vegetables may have more beneficial effects because cooking can destroy some vitamins and minerals.
“This is just one health behaviour – but it is one we can have some control over,” says Dr Conner. “Small changes like this can make meaningful changes in our mental health.”