Mental health and physical health are intricately intertwined. Stress, anxiety, and depression have all been linked to reductions in bone quality, mediated by increased inflammation and interruption of the bone remodeling process.
Strategies that protect and improve mental health also protect and improve bone health. Today we'll look at four studies that identify and support a simple behavior that's already part of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program's holistic approach: eating plenty of alkalizing fruits and vegetables.
Each of these recent studies examined the relationship between mental health and the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Today you'll learn how study participants benefited, and what you can do to bring the same positive outcomes into your life.
Study #1: Snacking Your Way To Better Psychological Health
A recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition examined the relationship between snacking habits and mental health. The study included 428 healthy adult participants who completed several questionnaires in reference to dietary habits and psychological health.
Their answers associated more frequent consumption of fruit with reduced symptoms of depression and greater positive psychological well-being. Participants who chose savory snacks were more likely to experience symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and reduced psychological well-being.1
The researchers also observed that savory snackers showed an increase in cognitive failures on the behavioral questionnaire. They suggested that this increase in cognitive failures may be an intermediary step between savory snack consumption and stress and anxiety.1
This research not only provides a useful strategy for maintaining psychological wellness– choosing fruit over salty-savory snacks– but it also adds new data to our understanding of how diet affects psychological health.
A study of 428 healthy adults snacking habits and mental wellness found that participants who ate fruit for snacks had lower rates of depression, stress, and anxiety than those who chose salty-savory snacks.
Study #2: Fruits And Vegetables And Mental Health
Researchers in Poland conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed observational studies analyzing the association between fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) and mental health in adults. Their analysis, published in the journal Nutrients, considered 5,911 studies, ultimately including 61 that met the researchers' strict criteria.
Across those 61 studies, the most consistent and prominent results indicated that high fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) promoted higher levels of optimism and self-efficacy, along with lower levels of psychological distress and depressive symptoms.2
The researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables have a positive influence on mental health and they recommended consuming at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.2
A meta-analysis of 61 studies comparing fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) to mental wellness found that high FVI promoted higher levels of optimism and improved mental health. Lower FVI was associated with depressive symptoms and poor mental health. Researchers recommended consuming at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
Study #3: Perceived Stress And Fruit And Vegetable Consumption
An Australian study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found links between fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) and perceived stress.
This study used both dietary questionnaires and clinical measurements of serum carotenoids to measure fruit and vegetable intake. Carotenoids are a class of pigments produced by plants, often giving them yellow, orange, or red coloration.
The researchers used a perceived stress questionnaire (PSQ) to measure participants' stress levels. More than 8,600 Australians between the ages of 25 and 91 participated. The participants with the highest FVI (at least 470 grams) reported 10% lower stress levels than those who ate the least fruits and veggies (less than 230 grams).3
Here are some example weights of fruits and vegetables to give you an idea of what that looks like in practice:
- Half a large apple (120 grams)
- Eight strawberries (150 grams)
- One cup of leafy greens (75 grams)
- One bell pepper (170 grams)
Just those four items add up to more than 500 grams. You can see how easy it is to reach this baseline amount each day.
The researchers concluded that fruit and vegetable intake was associated with lower perceived stress.3 We already knew that high FVI is essential for physical well-being, and these findings underscore how important diet is for mental health.
Australian researchers used questionnaires and clinical measurements to analyze 8600 participants' fruit and vegetable intake and perceived stress levels. They found that participants who ate at least 470 grams of fruits and veggies reported 10% lower stress levels than those who ate less than 230 grams.
Study #4: Psychological Well-Being Impacts Diet
A 2018 study published in the journal Health Psychology demonstrated the often circular relationship between healthy actions and positive health outcomes.
The study included 6,565 participants aged 50 and older from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing between 2006 and 2013. Psychological well-being was assessed with 17 questions from the Control, Autonomy, Satisfaction, Pleasure (CASP) Scale.
Researchers assessed fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) using a dietary questionnaire. Then they analyzed the relationship between FVI and psychological well-being, and how each variable changed over time.
The data showed a positive association between FVI and psychological well-being, consistent with other studies. Over time, the researchers noticed a trend among the participants. Those with lower mental health scores at the beginning of the study were more likely to reduce their intake of fruit and vegetables over the years of follow-up.4
“Among individuals who initially met recommendations to consume (greater than or equal to) five servings of fruits and vegetables, higher baseline psychological well-being was associated with 11% reduced risk of falling below recommended levels during follow-up.”4
The researchers concluded that there is a bi-directional relationship between mental well-being and healthy dietary choices. That means that each one influences the other.4
This provides multiple potential points of effective intervention. Improving your diet can have benefits for your mental health that will in turn support your healthy dietary choices. Conversely, you could start by improving your psychological health. That change will support your ability to make healthy dietary choices– which will in turn further support your mental health.
As with any interconnected system– any improvement has a ripple effect of positive change throughout the system. This is what makes a holistic approach to well-being and bone health so effective.
A 2018 study found a bi-directional relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and psychological well-being. Each factor influenced the other. Looking at this relationship over time, they found that participants will lower mental health scores were more likely to reduce their FVI over time.
What This Means To You
Eat fruits and vegetables every day. To get the benefits observed in today's studies, eat at least six one-cup (8 oz) servings. Your mental health will benefit– and that improved psychological well-being will help you to maintain your healthy eating habits.
The Osteoporosis Reversal Program‘s 80/20 pH-balanced diet is an excellent and simple tool for eating plenty of fruits and veggies each day. Because fruits and vegetables make up the vast majority of alkalizing foods, when you ensure that every meal consists of about 80 percent alkalizing foods, you will get the fruits and vegetables you need.
Along with the mental health benefits of a diet high in fruits and veggies, you also get many other benefits– including support for strong, high-quality bones.