Everyone knows that a diet tipped in favor of fruits and vegetables is the healthy way to go. But did you know it can make you happier, too? That came as a surprise to me, and now I’d like to share the news with you.
Scientists studied the diets of 12,000 volunteers in England and Australia. They asked them to keep food diaries, and they also gathered psychological information about the state of their mental health. The researchers found that there was a direct correlation between the number of fruits and vegetables in the diet and the subject’s sense of happiness. Every addition of a fruit or vegetable to the daily diet increased the sense of happiness, up to eight servings a day. This ‘happiness project’ study found that improvements in a sense of well-being with the addition of fruits and vegetables to the diet was unequivocally evident after just two years, You might think, “Do I really have to wait that long to feel happier?” I would ask you to think of it this way: If you plan to be alive in two years, and most people do, then why not arrange to be a happier, healthier version of yourself in two years when you hit that milestone? You have to eat something several times a day; why not eat more fruits and vegetables?
While the researchers are not able to say exactly why eating fruits and vegetables improves one’s sense of happiness, it may be related to the nutrients, anti-oxidants, and vitamins that are richly found in their natural, unaltered state in fresh fruits and vegetables. One group of substances seemed to stand out as potentially most important in this regard – carotenoids, which impart yellow, orange, and red colors to plants.
The Australians have promoted a 2+5 approach to public health initiatives focused on encouraging the addition of more fruits and vegetables into the daily diets of its citizens: 2 fruits and 5 servings of vegetables per day. That’s a really simple arithmetic to keep in mind. Allow me to refresh your memory about which fruits and vegetables are particularly high in carotenoids, so that when you go to the market, or select off a menu, you can keep these superfoods in mind: carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, mangoes, tomatoes, spinach, kale, bell peppers and oranges.