The fact that eating fruit and vegetables is good for health is not exactly headline news. However, a new study has found that it can impact on mental health to an enormous degree.
Eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day can give an emotional boost similar to the one a person would receive after getting a job having been unemployed. On the flip side, suddenly taking fruit and vegetables out of your diet can lead to a mental health impact akin to being widowed.
These conclusions are the results of a study of over 40,000 people carried out by the University of Leeds in England. Findings were published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Neel Ocean said: “Our findings provide further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruit and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long run, but also their mental wellbeing in the short run."
The study also found that eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables a day could have the same effect on mental wellbeing as around eight extra days of walking a month (for at least 10 minutes at a time).
It has long been through that our diet can impact on mental health. While the reasons are still unclear, previous studies have suggested that the answer lies in the nutrient content in food. Vitamins E and C (found in spinach and oranges) can help to lower inflammation which is linked with depression, while complex carbohydrates are thought to boost serotonin (the happy hormone) levels in the brain.
As Dr Ocean points out, “While further work is needed to demonstrate cause and effect, the results are clear: people who do eat more fruit and vegetables report a higher level of mental well-being and life satisfaction than those who eat less."