It is so widely known that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is good for your health that it seems almost too obvious a statement to make. But what if we told you that filling up on pears, bananas, radishes, cabbage and peaches also makes you happy? This is exactly what scientists claim according to a study published in September 2014 in the prestigious British Medical Journal which concludes that a person’s mental health may be associated with the consumption of fruit and vegetables. Scientists have based their findings on data collected during the Health Survey carried out in England which involved 14,000 respondents aged 16 and over. On analyzing the category of people with a high level of mental wellbeing, they noticed that 33.5% of them eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and so on, in a descending order: only 6.8% of them eat only one portion. An Australian study carried out on a sample of over 12,000 adults and households for a period lasting as long as 14 years, which was published one month ago, fully confirms what English colleagues have discovered – and by New Zealanders even earlier.
Scientists from Queensland University have examined people’s preferences in terms of fruit and vegetables and have rated them against life satisfaction levels, mental health, perceived health, vitality, psychological stress and other indicators of mental wellbeing. Conclusion: eating plenty of fruit and vegetables every day is a way to keep in good shape, mentally as well as physically. And the more you eat, the better it is. There is an optimal level: 4/5 portions of fruit and 4/5 portions of vegetables each day to ensure that optimism and happiness are sky-high. With further surprising results: fruit has a greater impact than vegetables on mental health and stress; a diet rich in fruit and greens has more effect on women than men (researchers are still unable to explain why). By the way, exactly how much is a portion? A fruit or vegetable about the size of the palm of your hand.
Happiness and mental wellbeing represent a relatively new field of study which is nonetheless in great demand today; but surprisingly, scarce importance is being given to people’s eating habits. Whilst the correlation between food and health is clear to everyone – since 1990 the World Health Organization has been recommending a daily consumption of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables – the association with mental health is unknown to most. What effect does the regular consumption of a particular food have on the indicators of mental health and wellbeing - optimism, happiness, high self-esteem, satisfactory interpersonal relations? There may not appear to be any cause and effect relationship between eating carrots and happiness: i.e. I eat ten times your portion of carrots and am therefore ten times happier than you, but science has come up with the proof: studies actually reveal that carrots – and indeed all types of fruit and vegetables – can put you in a better mood and confer serenity.
Which varieties in particular? All of them! And the richer they are in antioxidants – from bilberries to guava, from carrots, of course, to spinach – the better they work: many antioxidants contained in fruit and vegetables are associated with optimism. A survey conducted by the Harvard School of Health and other entities has shown that a third or more of Americans change their diet when under stress, generally choosing to eat comfort foods – usually sweets or refined carbohydrates – which, once the initial sensation of pleasure has worn off, actually produce the opposite effect: sugar and hormone levels shoot up and make us more prone to additional stress and bad moods. What is the correct solution? To fill up on luscious salads and delicious fruit salads, what else?