Adding just one extra serving of fruits and vegetables a day improves mental health

A longitudinal study aptly titled “Lettuce be happy” found that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables can improve mental well-being. While the role of a healthy diet in influencing physical health is well established, the authors say, the new research indicates that increasing the frequency and amount of fresh produce can make you happier and boost your mental health.

According to TLC, the study from the Universities of Leeds and York in the UK analyzed data from more than 40,000 people over a seven-year period. The researchers found that when there was an increase in fruits and vegetables in the participants’ diets, they reported a better mood.

They also noted that participants did not have to eat a lot of produce to reap these benefits. In fact, one serving seemed to do the trick. Eating just one extra serving of the products per day had the same effect on mental well-being as walking eight extra days per month (at least 10 minutes each time).

“It is well known that eating fruits and vegetables can benefit physical health,” said study co-author Dr. Neel Ocean of the University of Leeds. “While more work is needed to demonstrate cause and effect, the results are clear: People who eat more fruits and vegetables report higher levels of mental well-being and life satisfaction than those who eat less.”

If your family has picky eaters, start with smaller portions at each meal, TLC says. And try these tips from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition to introduce more fruits and vegetables into your diet. One of the suggestions is toast with nut butter, berries and bananas. You can also throw extra veggies into omelets or quiches and put fruits and veggies into smoothies. Use high-protein hummus or homemade guacamole as a dip station for fresh carrots, celery, and cucumbers.

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