Eating more fruit and veg improves your mood: Getting 10-a-day boosts our emotional wellbeing as much as landing a new job
- Cutting fruit and veg out of our diet has more of an impact than being widowed
- Fresh produce is rich in vitamins that lower inflammation linked to depression
It has long been known that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is good for our hearts.
But now research suggests filling up on apples, carrots and bananas even gives our mental health a boost.
A study found doubling the recommended daily intake from 5-a-day to ten has the same effect on our emotional wellbeing as going from unemployment into a job.
And if you suddenly cut fruit and vegetables out of your diet, your mental health declines more than someone who has just been widowed.
Eating more fruit and vegetables improves your mood, research suggests (stock)
The research was carried out by the University of Leeds and led by Neel Ocean, a research fellow in behavioural economics.
‘Our findings provide further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruit and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long run, but also their mental wellbeing in the short run,’ the authors wrote in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
To build on past research that suggested a link between our diet and our mental health, the scientists analysed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey collected between 2010 and 2017.
This survey is made up of information on both fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as mental wellbeing, for around 50,000 people.
Participants were asked how many portions of fresh produce they usually eat in a given day or week.
A portion was defined as a piece of fruit, a cup – or fist-sized amount – of raw vegetables or half a cup of cooked vegetables.
To determine their mental-health statuses, the participants completed The General Health Questionnaire, which asked about their happiness levels, self worth and any anxiety.
Results revealed a person’s mental health improves in proportion to the amount of fruit and vegetables they eat each day.
A HANDFUL OF BERRIES A DAY REDUCES THE RISK OF DYING FROM HEART DISEASE BY 40%
Eating a handful of berries every day reduces people’s risk of dying from heart disease by 40 per cent, research suggests.
Antioxidants – known as anthocyanins – which give the fruit their colour, lower the risk of the condition by improving artery stiffness, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, a review of 25 studies found.
Some 16 per cent of heart-related deaths in developed countries are caused by a low fruit intake, the research – from the University of East Anglia – adds.
Heart disease causes around one in four deaths in the UK and US.
A poor diet is the leading cause of such fatalities worldwide.
And eating just one extra portion of berries, greens or salad boosts someone’s mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional ten minutes for seven days over four weeks, the researchers wrote.
Exercise has repeatedly been linked to a happier mood in past studies.
The study also suggested going from eating lots of fresh produce to cutting your consumption by five portions a day causes the same emotional distress as being diagnosed with a chronic condition.
And going from no fruit or vegetables to four-to-six portions a day boosts someone’s life satisfaction by the same amount as getting married.
Although unclear exactly why fresh produce boosts our mental health, past studies suggest beans, oranges and spinach are rich in vitamins E and C, which lower inflammation and ‘internal stress’ associated with depression.
The complex carbohydrates in fruit and vegetables may also boost levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain.
Despite the emotional benefits of eating lots of fresh produce, the results further revealed that 78 per cent of the participants consumed fewer than the recommended five-a-day.
Although those who earned high salaries were the most likely to get their five-a-day, poor fruit and vegetable consumption was observed across participants’ of all incomes.
Being unable to afford fresh produce is therefore not thought to be the cause of a diet lacking in fruit or vegetables.
Those over 64 were also less likely to get enough fruit or vegetables, which is thought to be due to the elderly eating less in general.
In keeping with past research, the study also found the female participants ate significantly more fresh produce than the men.