It seems right that good mental health follows good nutrition. Well, an intriguing bit of health news qualifies that perfectly, with researchers finding that happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Economists and public health researchers studied the eating habits of 80,000 people in Britain. They found mental well-being appeared to rise with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables people consumed. The peak was found to be seven portions a day.
These results, on the surface, are not altogether surprising. Vegetables and fruit contain a vast array of essential nutrients, as well as plant-based compounds that do wonders in our bodies. So, filling up on the good stuff might make you feel good about yourself, and thus feed happiness. And, good mental health.
The study will be published shortly in the journal Social Indicators Research.
Who knows the exact health advice for eating produce, but it is advisable not to get caught up in counting daily portions. Rather make every meal and snack contain at least one portion of fruits or vegetables. Certainly, you could easily check off two or three vegetables at lunch, and a few more at dinner. A piece of fruit at breakfast, bag of carrots as a snack, pear in the afternoon, and you are more than covered. Generally, you should aim for five to 10 servings a day to get optimal protection against a slew of illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
RECOMMENDED: Could happiness protect against cold and flu?
Over in Britain, where the study was done, a quarter of the population eat just one portion of fruit and vegetables per day, or none at all. Perhaps it’s a bit better in the U.S., but if you thought it’s a lot better, you’d be fooling yourself. Only one-tenth of the British population currently consumes seven or more daily portions. FYI, the study does not distinguish among different kinds of fruits and vegetables, and defines a portion as about three ounces of food weight.
According to a press release, the researchers said: “The statistical power of fruit and vegetables was a surprise. Diet has traditionally been ignored by well-being researchers.”
Our fuel is food. But, social science rarely studies what people eat. Here is perfect, simple evidence that shows a link between eating fruits and vegetables, and enjoying increased well-being.
The seven measures of well-being the researchers measured: life satisfaction; mental well-being; mental disorders; self-reported health; happiness; nervousness; and feeling low.
So, smile, and grab yourself a salad.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Introducing the “Happiness Foods”
Blanchflower, D et al., “Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?” Social Indicators Research October 2012.