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Eating more fruits and vegetables has been drilled into our heads since childhood… and for good reason! There are plenty of studies that have linked a diet higher in fruits and veggies to better cardiovascular health, the reduced risk of some cancers and greater longevity. (1,2)
There is also a growing body of evidence that is linking a diet higher in fruits and vegetables to improved mental and emotional health. In fact, studies have shown that just a few more servings of fruits and vegetables can lower the incidence of anxiety and depression, increase happiness, and boost life satisfaction and social-emotional well-being. (2)
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In one Australian study, they followed more than 12,000 adults for 2 years and found a link between greater happiness and increased life satisfaction with higher consumption of fruits and vegetables. (3)
Since many people who consume more fruits and vegetables generally have healthier diets and lifestyles overall, many of these studies are still unable to conclusively link a diet higher in fruits and veggies to the mental health benefits they find. (2)
Recently, a study measured the effect of fruits and vegetables that were consumed over a two-week period of time. A group of 171 young adults between the ages of 18-25 were divided into 3 groups:
- Group 1 received text messages reminding them to eat more fruits and veggies.
- Group 2 were given vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables at no additional cost.
- Group 3 was forced to eat more fruits and veggies. They were given 2 extra servings of fruits and veggies each day on top of their normal diet.
On smartphones, each group recorded their daily experiences of negative and positive moods, vitality and feelings of flourishing behavior such as curiosity, creativity, motivation. Interestingly, Group 3 – the only group that was forced to eat more fruits and veggies – was the only group to see significant psychological improvements in motivation, vitality and flourishing behaviors. (2)
Free Mood Food Conclusion
In this study, they made the case that more fruits and vegetables do play an important role in mental health but, perhaps more importantly, they found that without proper motivation (in this case free food), there were major obstacles in getting young adults to eat just 2 more servings of fruits and veggies a day.
While more studies need to be done, there is strong evidence that it may be more cost effective to give away free fruits and veggies as a source of preventative mental health, compared to waiting until they are sick and taxpayers having to absorb the massive medical expenses incurred.
An ounce of fruit may very well be worth a pound of prevention! What do you think?