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High Intake of Fruits and Vegetables Linked To Better Mental Health

It has been long known that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is vital to good physical health. They provide much needed nutrients that help maintain bodily functions, and have even been linked to lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, this makes your fruit and vegetable intake extremely important, but the benefits don’t stop with just physical health. A recent study published in BMJ Open has linked fruit and vegetable intake to mental health.

A Healthy Mind Defined

Good mental health is more than simply an absence of mental illness. It is characterized by an overall sense of well being, including:

  • High self-esteem
  • Optimistic outlook
  • Happiness
  • Healthy relationships
  • Ability to cope with hard circumstances

These are all mental benefits that result from high fruit/vegetable intake. Essentially, eating your greens literally makes you happier.

Study Results

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, reviewed data from a survey that included about 14,000 people over the age of 16. The survey questions examined health practices, physical health, and mental health across various demographics and socioeconomic circumstances. Researchers then organized respondents into three groups: high mental health (the top 15%), low mental health (bottom 15%), and those in between.

When mental health was compared with the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten by respondents, the results showed that over 35% of those who had high mental health ate five or more portions per day. This was more than the 31.4% who ate three to four portions and the 28.4% who ate one or two. In other words, the higher your fruit and vegetable intake, the less likely you are to have poor mental health.

The only other factor in the study that had a clear effect on mental well being was smoking. The survey did not measure the effects of exercise, so there is still room for future exploration.

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

A “portion” as defined in the study is about a half cup, so two and a half cups per day will keep the psychologist away. It is important to make sure that you vary the types of fruit you eat. A good way to do this is to eat at least three different colors per day, and to cycle through different colors throughout the week. Also, fruit juices from concentrate don’t count. They should be whole fruits without vital nutrients processed out. As you do this, you’ll not only prevent cancer and improve your cardiovascular health, but you’ll also keep your brain healthy and happy.

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