Eating more fruits and vegetables can improve mental health in just two weeks, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study also found giving people fruits and vegetables could be a more effective strategy for increasing consumption than text message reminders or discount vouchers.
Other studies have also found a link between diet and mood. A 2013 GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert roundup highlights the link between mental health and a nutritious diet.
Can Fruits and Vegetables Improve Mental Health?
The study followed 171 18-to-25-year-old students. Prior to the study, participants consumed no more than three fruit and vegetable servings each day. At the time of the study, the students were not taking antidepressants.
The team divided the students into three groups. One continued eating as they always had. A second group received twice-daily text message reminders to eat more fruits and vegetables. The study also provided them with prepaid vouchers to cover the additional cost. The third group received a bag of fruits and vegetables equivalent to two extra daily servings.
Using questionnaires, researchers measured participants’ levels of depression, anxiety, mood, social connectedness, and similar measures of well-being before the study and again after 14 days.motivation, and flourishing. They also increased their fruit and vegetable consumption to 3.7 daily servings. The other two groups had no significant increases in well-being. None of the groups experienced statistically significant reductions in depression or anxiety.
Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake
Other studies have looked at strategies to improve eating habits. One study found simple grocery store emojis directing consumers to healthier choices could improve eating habits. Another study found healthy eating habits may begin in infancy. This suggests children whose parents encourage healthy eating may reap lifelong benefits.
The authors of this study suggest providing people with additional servings of fruits and vegetables is more likely to help increase consumption of healthier food than simply giving reminders to eat healthy food.
Conner, T. S., Brookie, K. L., Carr, A. C., Mainvil, L. A., & Vissers, M. C. (2017). Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. PLOS ONE, 12(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171206
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