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Nutrition

Eating Fruit & Veg Directly Correlates With Mental Health, Study Shows

It’s all too easy to focus on what you can see in the mirror, right? We can get so caught up on trying to keep our bodies fit and healthy, that we completely overlook the importance of having a healthy and happy mind too.

We’re all about finding a good balance between the two, which is why this new research caught our attention. Plus, we’ve found another reason to stock up your fridge with your favourite fruit and vegetables.

This recent study has linked consumption of fruits and vegetables with better mental health and wellbeing.

 

Almost 80% of people didn’t consume the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

 

The data came from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), which includes information on over 45,000 people aged 15 years and over, collected from 2009-2017.

They also used parts of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) which is a screening instrument for psychiatric disorders, but also used as a measure of general wellbeing. It focused on aspects of hedonic wellbeing (feeling happy or depressed), eudaimonic wellbeing (purpose and self-worth), and anxiety (worry and strain).

To make sure that they could pinpoint the mental health effects to fruit and vegetables, the researchers also collected information on participants’ health conditions and lifestyle, including whether they did much walking, how much they earned, their gender, age, relationship status, education, number of children, and even whether they suffered from a long-term illness.

fruit bowl

 

There were a few distinctive results from the research, one of which was that almost 80% of people didn’t consume the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Perhaps surprisingly, there was only a weak association between a lower income and eating less fruit and vegetables and no link to age at all.

The most significant result was an apparent link between mental wellbeing and fruit and vegetable consumption. The researchers used regressions analyses (powerful statistical methods that allow you to examine the relationship between two or more variables of interest) for the several variables, including a regression of mental wellbeing on vegetables and fruit consumed.

 

It showed that the more fruit and vegetables that were consumed directly correlated with an increase in mental wellbeing.

 

In fact, the effects of consuming 1 more portion of fruit and veg in a day were said to have the same positive mental impact as walking 10 or more minutes for an additional 8 days per month.

These are some exciting associations between nutrition and mental health that could mean a lot for how we treat it. There’s still plenty to be done, as this association doesn’t prove causation, but does suggest some significant links between fruit and veg and mental health.

Feel like you could do with a bit more fruit and veg in your diet? Try switching out snacks and desserts with a portion of fruit, or mix some veggies through your favourite dinners.

Enjoy finding out about the latest health and nutrition studies?

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


Ocean, N., Howley, P., & Ensor, J. (2019). Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being. Social Science & Medicine, 222, 335-345.

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Evangeline Howarth

Evangeline Howarth

Editor

Evangeline has taken part in competitive sports since a young age. As a qualified RYA Dinghy Instructor, she understands the importance of proper nutrition for fuelling extreme and endurance sports, especially due to her experience in Team GBR Squads and captaining and coaching her University first team.

In her spare time, Evangeline loves running – especially marathons. On the weekends, you’ll find her taking on water sports or hiking up a hill. Her favourite evenings are spent taking on a HIIT session or squats in the gym before digging into some spicy food and a ton of vegetables – yum!

Find out more about Evie's experience here.


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