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You might reach for pizza or ice cream when you feel sad, but these foods may work better at boosting immediate happiness.
We all know that eating fruits and vegetables makes our bodies healthier—but a new study suggests that feasting on plant foods improves our emotional health, too. Researchers at the University of Warwick in England and University of Queensland in Australia found that consuming a higher quantity of fruits and vegetables can significantly increase a person's happiness.
The results, which will soon be published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that each added portion of fruits and vegetables—up to 8 portions a day—boosts the subject's mood. According to Science Daily, this was one of the first major scientific studies that analyzed how fruits and vegetables can benefit psychological health, in addition to physical health.
"Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health," says study author Andrew Oswald. Throughout the study, over 12,000 randomly selected people kept detailed food diaries and notes on general psychological health over the course of 2007, 2009, and 2013. The scientists found that eating these fresh foods correlated with improved happiness to a staggering degree. Results show that going from eating almost no fruits and vegetables per day to eight portions had a mood impact equivalent to someone moving from unemployment to employment.
"People's motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that phsycial-health benefts, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later," Oswald says. "However, wellbeing improvements from increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are closer to immediate."
Dr. Redzo Mujcic, a research fellow at the University of Queensland, hopes that this mental motivation will encourage an increased consumption of these healthy foods. "Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet," he says. "There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables—not just a lower health risk decades later."
The scientists behind the study note that a possible reasoning for this immediate and notable mental effect could be the antioxidants contained within the veggies and fruit—creating a possible link between happiness and the organic pigments called carotenoid. No matter the reason behind this mood-boosting study, one thing is sure: eating more fresh, healthy foods is sure to impact your body—and mind—for the better.