We know that fruits and vegetables are beneficial to our physical health.
But what about our mental health?
Could the food that makes us healthier also make us happier? Does the food that fuels our bodies best also fuel our creativity, our engagement in life and feelings of well-being?
Recent studies suggest the answer is yes!
In a large British study of 80,000 people published in 2013, researchers concluded:
“A dose-response relationship was found between daily servings of FV[fruits and vegetables] and both life satisfaction and happiness. People who consumed seven or eight portions of FV per day reported the highest life satisfaction and happiness.”
Another study conducted on 405 young adults published in 2015 tested whether fruit and vegetable consumption “is associated with greater eudonomic well-being – a state of flourishing characterized by feelings of engagement, meaning, and purpose in life.”
Each day participants reported on their food intake as well as their eudonomic well-being, curiosity, creativity, positive effect and negative effect.
So how did sweets and potato chips compare to fruits and vegetables?
“Young adults who ate more FV reported higher average eudaemonic well-being, more intense feelings of curiosity, and greater creativity compared with young adults who ate less FV. On days when young adults ate more FV, they reported greater eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, and creativity compared with days when they ate less FV.”
But wait, could they just be eating fruits and vegetables because they are happier?
British researchers wanted to know. So they surveyed young adults to learn if what they ate on a particular day had an effect on how they felt the next day.
“Results of lagged analysis showed that fruits and vegetables predicted improvements in positive affect the next day, suggesting that healthy foods were driving affective experiences and not vice versa. Meaningful changes in positive affect were observed with the daily consumption of approximately 7-8 servings of fruit or vegetables.”
While the results of these studies are correlational, the findings provide evidence that more fruits and vegetables are associated with a happier, more satisfying life.
Seven to eight servings of fruit and vegetables a day appear to be the tipping point.
So how many servings are you getting each day?
Easy Ways to Get Your 7 or 8 a Day
Getting more fruits and veg into your day can be fast and easy.
Fresh Pressed Juices – If you own a juicer, or are fortunate enough to have a juice bar in the neighborhood, a green juice is an excellent way to pack in the veg. (Avoid pasteurized juices and juices with added sugars.)
Smoothies – A high powered blender can do a nice job of turning several servings of fruit, vegetables and greens into a smooth and frothy drink.
Raw Snacks – Bell pepper slices, carrot sticks and cucumber coins aren’t just for kids. Bring these crunchy, fiber filled snacks with you to work and enjoy them along with some hummus or homemade black bean dip.
Half Your Plate – Fill half your plate at lunch and dinner with vegetables. This can be a salad or cooked non-starchy vegetables. (The other half of the plate should be half starchy veg or whole grains, and half protein–rich foods like beans, lentils, quinoa or lean meat.)
Whole Fruit – Apples, oranges and bananas are easy “grab and go” options. Headed home from work or on an errand and feeling hungry? Crunch on a cold, juicy apple.