Eating these foods will improve your mental wellbeing, new study

Portrait pretty woman with many strawberry over colorful blue background
Portrait pretty woman with many strawberry over colorful blue background

Lettuce be happy! A new study out of the U.K. suggests that eating fruit and vegetables is not only good for the body, but also the mind.

It is well known that eating your fair share of fruit and vegetables is good for your physical health, but new research suggests that it might be good for your mental health too.

A new study published in the Journal Social Science & Medicine showed that increases in the consumption of fruit and vegetables are linked to increases in self-reported mental wellbeing and life satisfaction in data that spans a five-year period. This even after accounting for other determinants of mental wellbeing such as physical health, income and consumption of other foods.

The research was carried out by Neel Ocean, a research fellow in behavioral economics and Peter Howley, an associate professor of economics at the University of Leeds. 

“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,” the authors of the study write in The Conversation.

While the authors do caution that their findings alone cannot reveal a causal link from fruit and vegetable consumption to increased psychological wellbeing, they do suggest that the case is strengthened when considered with other research findings. “For example, a randomised trial conducted in New Zealand found that various measures of mental wellbeing, such as motivation and vitality, improved in a treatment group where young adults were asked to eat two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day for two weeks, although no changes were found for depressive symptoms, anxiety or mood,” the authors motivate.

Although these studies have found a link between fruit and vegetable consumption and mental well-being, the authors say that large trials are needed to provide robust evidence that the link is causal. 

“We are not suggesting eating fruits and vegetables is a substitute for medical treatment, but a simple way to improve your mental health could be to add a little more fruit and veg to your daily diet.”


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