Findings from observational studies investigating the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of depression were inconsistent. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to summarise available data on the association between fruit and vegetable intake and depression. A systematic literature search of relevant reports published in Medline/PubMed, ISI (Web of Science), SCOPUS and Google Scholar until Oct 2017 was conducted. Data from 27 publications (sixteen cross-sectional, nine cohort and two case–control studies) on fruit, vegetables and/or total fruit and vegetable consumption in relation to depression were included in the systematic review. A total of eighteen studies that reported relative risks (RR), hazard ratios or OR for the relationship were included in the meta-analysis. The pooled RR for depression in the highest v. the lowest category of fruit intake was 0·83 (95 % CI 0·71, 0·98) in cohort studies and 0·76 (95 % CI 0·63, 0·92) in cross-sectional studies. Consumption of vegetables was also associated with a 14 % lower risk of depression (overall RR=0·86; 95 % CI 0·75, 0·98) in cohort studies and a 25 % lower risk of depression (overall RR=0·75; 95 % CI 0·62, 0·91) in cross-sectional studies. Moreover, an inverse significant association was observed between intake of total fruit and vegetables and risk of depression (overall RR=0·80; 95 % CI 0·65, 0·98) in cross-sectional studies. In a non-linear dose–response association, we failed to find any significant association between fruit or vegetable intake and risk of depression (fruit (cross-sectional studies): P
non-linearty=0·12; vegetables (cross-sectional studies): P
non-linearty<0·001; (cohort studies) P
non-linearty=0·97). Meta-regression of included observational studies revealed an inverse linear association between fruit or vegetable intake and risk of depression, such that every 100-g increased intake of fruit was associated with a 3 % reduced risk of depression in cohort studies (RR=0·97; 95 % CI 0·95, 0·99). With regard to vegetable consumption, every 100-g increase in intake was associated with a 3 % reduced risk of depression in cohort studies (RR=0·97; 95 % CI 0·95, 0·98) and 5 % reduced odds in cross-sectional studies (RR=0·95; 95 % CI 0·91, 0·98). This meta-analysis of observational studies provides further evidence that fruit and vegetable intake was protectively associated with depression. This finding supports the current recommendation of increasing fruit and vegetable intake to improve mental health.