It is well known that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is good for your physical health, but the 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. Researchers Neel Ocean and Peter Howley wanted to know if this finding held true using a larger sample (more than 40,000 participants) from the UK Household Longitudinal Study. Ocean is a research fellow in behavioral economics and Howley is an associate professor of economics at the University of Leeds.
Their analysis, reported by CNN, 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 the researchers’ 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.