It is well known that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is good for your physical health, but latest research suggests that it might be good for your mental health too.
A study from Australia in 2016 found improvements in psychological well-being after increases in fruit and vegetable consumption. We wanted to know if this finding held true using a larger sample (more than 40,000 participants) from the UK Household Longitudinal Study.
Our analysis showed that increases in the consumption of fruit and vegetables are linked to increases in self-reported mental well-being and life satisfaction in data that spans a five-year period, even after accounting for other determinants of mental well-being such as physical health, income and consumption of other foods.
The benefits of physical activity for mental health are well established. The estimates from our work suggest that adding one portion to your diet per day could be as beneficial to mental well-being as going for a walk on an extra seven to eight days a month. One portion is equal to one cup of raw vegetables (the size of a fist), half a cup of cooked vegetables or chopped fruit, or one piece of whole fruit. This result is encouraging as it means that one possible way to improve your mental health could be something as simple as eating an extra piece of fruit every day or having a salad with a meal.
Being diagnosed with depression does not appear to be a strong predictor of fruit and vegetable consumption two years later. This suggests that it is perhaps more likely that eating fruits and vegetables is influencing mood and not the other way around.
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