There are many health benefits that come along with the raw foods diet. But did you know raw foods can boost your mental health? A study conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand found that people who ate more uncooked produce had lower levels of symptoms related to depression and other mental illnesses compared to people who ate cooked, canned, or processed alternatives. This link could be because raw fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients in their natural state, and these nutrients could have a positive impact on mood and brain chemistry.
Depression can affect anyone and finding relief can be difficult. Participants in the study in New Zealand found that an increased intake of raw foods provided them with some relief from their depression symptoms. The 10 foods that had the greatest positive mental health benefits were carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit.
Participants in the study found that raw vegetables that are traditionally associated with salads can reduce your stress levels and increase your overall satisfaction in life. These include celery, cabbage, red onion, tomato, and mushrooms. Though you can get increased mood benefits from processed produce like pumpkin, mixed frozen vegetables, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, the amount you will get is increased with raw vegetables.
The study found that mood was increased thanks to a higher intake in raw produce and people consuming higher levels of vitamins B and C. Micronutrients known as phytochemicals that are found in fruits and vegetables are also responsible for increased mental health results. Phytochemicals are found in plants and include flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, tocopherols, tocotrienols, and many more. Because these micronutrients are heat sensitive, cooking fruits and vegetables can reduce or even completely remove these micronutrients. Other vitamins are also heat sensitive and can be lost when cooked. Water-soluble vitamins can be lost by as much as 50-60% just by being boiled.
While part of the mental health benefits stems from what is in fruits and vegetables, another aspect is what you are not consuming. By adhering to the raw foods diet, you are avoiding white sugar, preservatives, and other processed chemicals.
Studies have found that diets high in refined white sugar can be linked to higher levels of depression. Overconsumption of sugar can trigger imbalances in brain chemicals, which can lead to depression or even increase the risk of developing other mental health disorders down the line. By maintain a raw food diet, you will only be consuming natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables and will not have to worry about the negative effects of added sugars.
Preservatives can be found in many foods, whether to give them a longer shelf life or to add coloring. These chemicals are known to cause anxiety and decreased mood when consumed. These preservatives are not naturally occurring chemicals, so you do not need to worry about consuming them when participating in the raw foods diet.
When you take part in the raw foods diet, there are other toxins that you are able to avoid. These can enter your food through your cooking utensils such as baking pans, frying pans, and other kitchen staples. These toxins can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety while also causing other problems to your physical health. Skip the pans and stick with raw fruits and vegetables.
By taking part in the raw foods diet, you will not only begin to feel great benefits to your physical health but to your mental health as well. It is important to keep a varied diet of raw fruits and vegetables to ensure you are hitting your daily requirements of all your essential vitamins and minerals. If you feel you are missing out on certain nutrients, be sure to check out our variety of supplements available to help fill that gap.