Consuming fruit and vegetables could be just as good for your mental wellbeing as it is for your physical health, a new study finds.
The study of 14,000 people in the UK found that the more fruit and vegetables they consumed, the higher their mental wellbeing (Stranges et al., 2014).
Mental wellbeing is about more than just not being depressed: it means positively feeling good.
People with higher mental wellbeing are more optimistic, happier, have higher self-esteem and better relationships with others.
Dr Saverio Stranges, the study’s first author, said:
“Along with [not] smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behaviour most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing.
These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental wellbeing in the general population.”
The results showed that amongst those who ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, 33.5% had high mental wellbeing.
Amongst those who only ate one portion per day, this figure dropped to just 6.8%.
Other lifestyle factors were also important, but only not smoking was as consistently associated with higher wellbeing as fruit and vegetable consumption.
Although this study only tells us that fruit and vegetable consumption and higher mental wellbeing are associated, other studies have shown a stronger connection.
One asked participants to log how much fruit and vegetables they ate over a 21-day period, as well as their mood (White et al., 2013).
The researchers found that eating more fruit and vegetables one day predicted better mood the next day.
There is also much evidence linking fruit and vegetable consumption with better physical wellbeing, so increased mental wellbeing is not a stretch.
Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, one of the study’s co-authors, concluded:
“Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental wellbeing underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.
… [high] fruit and vegetable intake could [enable] people to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Tetsumo