Everyone knows fruits and vegetables do your body good by reducing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Now, a surprising new study finds that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables may also boost psychological well-being in as little as 2 weeks. That’s right: eating your fruits and vegetables can boost mental wellness, especially your feelings of vitality, flourishing, and motivation.
The study—led by Dr. Tamlin Conner of the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand—found that young adults given extra fruits and vegetables each day for 14 days ate more of the produce and experienced a boost in motivation and vitality. The study was published in the journal PLOS One.
Fruits & Veggies—the Key to Happiness?
To test the effects of fruits and veggies on mental wellness, the researchers enrolled 171 students aged between 18 and 25 to their study, and they were divided into 3 groups for 2 weeks.
- Group One was given additional servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (including carrots, kiwi fruit, apples, and oranges) each day
- Group Two was given prepaid produce vouchers and received text reminders to consume more fruits and vegetables
- Group Three continued with their normal eating patterns
Both at the beginning and end of the study, the young adults were given psychological assessments to evaluate mood, vitality, motivation, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and other determinants of mental health and well-being.
The findings were clear:
Group One, who received extra fruits and vegetables, consumed the most of these products over the 2 weeks, at 3.7 servings daily—and they experienced improvements in psychological well-being. Improvements were especially notable for vitality, motivation, and flourishing.
Neither of the other two groups experienced improvements. Of note, Group One did not improve for markers of depression, either, despite their improvements in other areas of mental health. But the researchers say that’s probably because the study only lasted two weeks, and depression tends to take longer to show improvement. They say their findings indicate that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables through personal delivery may lead to rapid benefits for psychological well-being.
“Providing young adults with high-quality fruits and vegetables … resulted in improvements to their psychological well-being over a 2-week period. This is the first study to show that providing high-quality fruits and vegetables to young adults can result in short-term improvements in vitality, flourishing, and motivation. Findings provide initial validation of a causal relationship between fruits and vegetables and well-being, suggesting that large-scale intervention studies are warranted.”
USDA DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that adults should consume about 2 cups of fruits and about 2-3 cups of vegetables each day.
One cup of fruit amounts to about half a grapefruit or one large orange, and one cup of vegetables equals about one large red pepper or a large, baked sweet potato.