Now you need to eat TEN-a-day! Adding more fruit and veg to your diet boosts your mood and emotional wellbeing as much as landing a new job, study finds
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.
Adding ten additional portions of fruit and vegetables to your daily diet has the same effect on our emotional wellbeing as going from unemployment into a job, a study found.
And if you suddenly cut fresh produce out of your diet, your mental health declines more than someone who has just been widowed, scientists say.
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 HEALTHY DIET AND PLENTY OF EXERCISE PROTECTS AGAINST DEPRESSION
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise protects against depression, research suggests.
A study of nearly 46,000 people found eating lots of vegetables – while cutting back on fast food – boosts our mental health.
It does not matter if you eat better to lose weight or get more nutrients – the impact on your emotional wellbeing is the same.
And the effects become stronger when a healthy diet is combined with an active lifestyle.
The researchers – from the University of Manchester – hope a healthy lifestyle will be considered as a ‘viable treatment to help people with low mood’.
But the study – published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine – found eating better has no impact on our anxiety levels.
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.