It is a well-known fact that regular daily intake of fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things we can do to maintain our physical health.
These natural products are bursting with precious vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber that feed and protect each cell in our body.
Different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients, which is why our plate should contain a mixture of multiple colored produce. The amount is also important – it should not be less than 5 portions or 400 grams daily, in order for us to reap the health benefits from them, according to the World Health Organization.
It has been estimated that the average person in the U.S. consumes only three portions of fruits and vegetables daily.
New research has revealed some exciting news: they significantly contribute not only to our physical health, but also to our mental health as well. There are countless experts on well-being and wellness advising us how to improve our mood and emotional health but the simplest and yet the most important factor is often being neglected: our nutrition.
The more fruit and vegetable we eat, the happier we become
The first study on how the consumption of fruit and vegetables affects our mental health was conducted by researchers from the University of Warwick in Britain, in collaboration with their colleagues from Dartmouth College in the USA. It was carried out in 2012.
They studied the dietary habits of 80,000 individuals in Britain. The results have shown that the more servings of fruit and vegetables they consumed daily, the better their mental health appeared to be.
The biggest improvement in the overall well-being and the level of happiness was seen among people who had 7 serving a day. One serving contained 80 g, or 2 ½ oz of produce, which equals a small apple, banana or a carrot. The co-author of the study, Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, said that “The statistical power of fruit and vegetables was a surprise. Diet has traditionally been ignored by well-being researchers.”
The study is entitled ‘Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?’ by David G. Blanchflower, Andrew J. Oswald, and Sarah Stewart-Brown, and it was published in the Journal of Social Indicators Research.
Andrew Oswald, a co-author of the study and the professor of economics and behavioral science was surprised by the amazing effect of eating produce and said that such regularity in data was very uncommon.
Witnessing the incredible results, he was also prompted to eat more servings a day. “Having two more servings per day increased happiness by about a quarter, and having four more increased it by a half,” he has added.
His conclusion was that: “Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health. People’s motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later. However, well-being improvements from increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are closer to immediate.”
Sadly, the astounding 25% of the UK citizens consume one portion of the produce a day or none whatsoever, despite the promotional campaign from 2003 that aimed to raise awareness of the importance of eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
A more recent study from Australia reveals similar findings
Another study was recently carried out in Australia, involving 12,000 individuals over the period of 2 years. The participants were first asked to indicate their level of satisfaction in life on a scale from 0 to 10. The researchers further examined their eating habits, carefully tracking increase in their daily intake of fruits and vegetables.
Consistent with previous results, this study also revealed that the level of happiness grew with every additional portion of fruit and vegetables. The more portions people consumed, the happier they were. The researchers took into consideration the changes in people’s life circumstances but the results have remained unchanged.
One of the co-authors of the study, a health economics research fellow at the University of Queensland, Redzo Mujcic, has made the following statement: “The new findings may help doctors convince people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and added: “Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet.”
The study entitled “Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables”, is expected to be published soon in the American Journal of Public Health.
Why do fruits and vegetables make us happier?
According to researchers, the increase in the level of optimism is most likely related to the high content of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, especially the pigments carotenoids.
The vitamin B 12 content is also responsible for the production of serotonin in the brain, which regulates our mood. More research is needed in this field for conclusive evidence.
It is nonetheless crystal clear what we should do on a daily basis: fill up our plate with fruits and vegetables in the colors of the rainbow at each meal.
It is also advisable to keep them readily available and at our disposal – in a bowl on our dining table, for example. It is also easy to mix a handful of fresh fruits into smoothies or to make freshly squeezed juices. There are numerous options: willingness is all that matters.