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Good mood fruit and vegetables

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

We all know that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is vital to maintain peak physical health, but what about our mental health? Will a trip to the local greengrocer help to reduce symptoms of mental illness?

At least 45% of us will experience a form of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, at some point in our lives. Mental illness, like heart disease, cancer and diabetes is an illness and may require medical treatment however, like these other illnesses, dietary intervention does seem to play a role in preventing and reducing symptoms.

Researchers at the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University compared two groups of patients who were both suffering from major depressive disorders. The first group were prescribed a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and wholegrains, and low in sugar, highly processed junk food, while the second group maintained their existing diet and received weekly social support. After 12 weeks only 8 percent of those who received social support reported an improvement in their symptoms, while 30 percent of those on the healthy diet reported a significant improvement in their mood and symptoms. Scientists have attributed it to gut health and the many pathways that connect our gut to our brains. They believe that diet is related to the systems that help our brain and gut communicate with each other. A diet that is rich in fibre and natural prebiotics from fruit and vegetables helps promote good bacteria in the gut which enables the breakdown of nutrients necessary to reduce inflammation, maintain a strong immune function and promote healthy brain cells and mental health.
Inulin is a naturally occurring, indigestible fibre found in a number of plant foods. It's a prebiotic which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

What to eat to promote gut function and protect our mental health

1. Asparagus
2. Banana
3. Garlic
4. Jerusalem artichokes
5. Leeks
6. Onions
7. Pumpkin
8. Sweetpotato
9. Peas
10. Beans

It seems that a balanced diet which includes five serves of vegetables and 2 fruit not only reduces a person's risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes but it also helps to protect us from mental disorders including depression and anxiety.

Once again we conclude that the local greengrocer is really a very affordable health food store.

So what should we eat to reduce the risk of depression or to reduce the symptoms of mild depression*?

While the recommended daily requirement for fresh vegetables and fruit is 5 serves of veg and 2 fruit, in addition to wholegrains, nuts, good fats and lean protein, the study encouraged patients to eat 6 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit.


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