The best antidepressant may come from the refrigerator.
If you think the pharmaceutical industry holds the keys to happiness, think again. It turns out, fresh fruits and vegetables might just be a critical factor for happiness and mental health. In fact, researchers from Dartmouth University and the University of Warwick have found that people who eat seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day have the highest levels of happiness and mental health. In an era when there is a pill for everything, this is a refreshing bit of news.
When it comes to mental health, researchers have looked at many factors—but rarely do studies evaluate a link between diet and mental health. As a result, little is known about the relationship between diet and psychological well-being. In this study, researchers examined the eating habits of 80,000 people in England and found that mental well-being improved in correlation with an increase in the number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables. (One serving was defined as about 2.8 ounces.) Happiness peaked at seven servings per day.
The subjects in this study were randomly selected and evaluated for seven measures of well-being: life satisfaction, mental well-being, mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and feeling low. The researchers noted that even after adjusting for demographic, social, and economic variables, individuals who consumed more fruits and vegetables had higher levels of happiness and mental health.
The reasons for the association are unclear, but research will be ongoing to continue to examine the link between diet and mental health. In the meantime, you have nothing to lose by increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption—especially if you’re feeling blue. Current government recommendations suggest that people eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day to protect against heart disease and cancer. Of course, this is a minimum recommendation. If you’re striving for physical—and mental—health, you might be better off striving for seven servings.
Blanchflower DG, Oswald AJ, Stewart-Brown S. Is psychological well-being linked to the consumption of fruit and vegetables? Social Indicators Research. October 2012.
Tags: Nutritional Know-How