Fruits and Veggies Make You Happy

Just last week I wrote about a new study showing that Seventh Day Adventists, who follow a vegetarian diet (and shun smoking and drugs and discourage alcohol) live significantly longer than the average American.

Now we have a new study showing health benefits from the consumption of fruits and vegetables–mental health benefits, that is.

Bananas

Is happiness this simple?

Researchers in England tracked the fruit and vegetable intake of 8,000 men and women and surveyed them on life satisfaction, happiness and mental well being.  Across the board, the more fruits and vegetables a person ate–up to 7 or 8 servings per day–the happier that person was.  Even eating one or two servings made a difference; eating 7 or 8 made a much bigger difference.

The researchers were careful to note that this shows only a correlation between happiness and fruit and vegetable consumption, and not necessarily causation.  It could be that happy people eat more fruits and vegetables, rather than the other way around; or that some third factor (for instance, wealth, or living near farmers’ markets) causes people both to be happier and to eat more fruits and vegetables.

But the correlation is encouraging.  The positive health effects of vegetarianism and veganism may make more headlines than the specific effects of simply adding a few fruits and vegetables to your diet every day, but that doesn’t mean you need to go 100% vegan or vegetarian to see any benefit.  In fact, the study seems to suggest that eating more than 7 or 8 servings of fruits and vegetables ceases to give you any additional benefit, when it comes to mental health, happiness and life satisfaction.

The researchers didn’t speculate as to why fruits and vegetables may cause happiness.  It’s possible that it simply makes you feel good about yourself if you find the discipline to eat so many fruits and vegetables.  It may be a matter of a healthier body producing a healthier mind.  Or it may be that it’s easier to get yourself to eat fruits and veggies when you’re happy.  Who knows.

My guess is that the body wants fruits and vegetables, and is healthier and happier when it gets them.  We all know how we feel after we eat a lot of candy or an otherwise non-nutritional meal.  And we all know, anecdotally, that we feel better when we eat better.  These sorts of feelings are tough to demonstrate in studies, particularly when it comes to pinpointing actual causal relationships, but it’s little surprise if it’s true that fruits and vegetables cause a healthier body, and the healthier body causes more life satisfaction.  Normal hormonal and other chemical reactions in our bodies, from seratonin levels to cortisol levels, are clearly influenced by diet and exercise and clearly have an impact on our state of mind.

So, as with any study, take this one with a grain of salt.  But take it.  There’s very little evidence out there that fruits and vegetables can do us harm, and an awful lot that they do us good.

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One Response to Fruits and Veggies Make You Happy

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