We’ve often been told to eat our fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced and healthy diet, as they provide us with essential nutrients to keep our bodies healthy. However, new research from the University of Otago in New Zealand has shown that consuming fresh produce can also boost mental health and increase motivation and vitality.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends two cups of fruits and two to three cups of vegetables daily—the equivalent of eating a whole grapefruit and two large red peppers with a baked sweet potato. Meeting your daily produce needs can help to decrease your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and obesity, and these new findings support the idea that fruits and vegetables are also beneficial to your mental health.
To conduct their study, researchers gathered 171 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 25 and divided them into three groups. The first group was to continue with their normal eating habits, the second was personally handed two additional servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, and the third were given vouchers for produce and sent text reminders to eat more fruits and vegetables. These groups each took a psychological assessment before beginning the study, and again after participating for two weeks. These assessments evaluated mood, vitality, motivation, depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as other factors tied to mental health and well-being.
The results showed that participants in the group who had been personally handed extra servings of fruit and vegetables ate most of these produce items and experienced improvements in their psychological well-being, including higher vitality and motivation. The group that was sent text reminders and given vouchers and the group that did not change their eating habits saw no change. Researchers concluded that providing fruits and vegetables to participants increased their likelihood of eating these products and increased their mental well-being.
The results of this study show that eating more servings of produce daily may help to increase your mental health, though more research must be conducted to discover whether these effects can be applied to different age groups and over a longer period of time.
Related: Poor oral hygiene linked to poor mental health in seniors