Feeling blue or just down on yourself? Downing more produce could help. A new study in BMJ Open finds that adequate fruit and veggie intake was associated with big mental perks, helping to lift levels of optimism, happiness, self-esteem, and resilience. Great news, considering about a half million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and up to 20% are dealing with a milder form of the fall and winter blues.
Researchers analyzed survey data from more than 14,000 adults and found that consuming 5 or more servings of produce daily was consistently associated with higher mental wellbeing. “One likely reason is antioxidants,” says Saverio Stranges, MD, lead study author and associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Warwick Medical School. “This study backs up previous findings that 9 different antioxidants are associated with optimism.”
Boosting your mental wellbeing can also overhaul your physical health. “General wellbeing, which includes markers of mental and physical health, is associated with a reduced risk of mortality and major chronic diseases,” says Stranges.
No one type of produce was associated with more happiness, so aim to increase your intake across the board, shooting to get a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. What’s a serving? Think 1 small apple or orange, ½ grapefruit, 1 cup leafy greens, or ½ cup raw fruits and veggies like berries or squash.