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Eating fruit and vegetables could be the key to happiness, with new research suggesting that the maximum benefit comes from eight-a-day!

University of Warwick research indicates that consuming more fruit and vegetables can substantially increase your happiness levels.

The study, to be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, is one of the first major scientific attempts to explore psychological well-being beyond the traditional finding that fruit and vegetables can reduce risk of cancer and heart attacks.

Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables up to 8 portions per day, with the researchers concluded that people who changed from almost no fruit and veg to eight portions of fruit and veg a day would experience an increase in life satisfaction equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment.

The well-being improvements occurred within 24 months.

Immediate Impact

The study followed more than 12,000 randomly selected people. These subjects kept food diaries and had their psychological well-being measured. The authors found large positive psychological benefits within two years of an improved diet.

Professor Andrew Oswald said: “Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health. People’s motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later. However, well-being improvements from increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are closer to immediate.”

The work is a collaboration between the University of Warwick, England and the University of Queensland, Australia. The researchers found that happiness increased incrementally for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables up to eight portions per day.

The study involved an examination of food diaries of 12,385 randomly sampled Australian adults over 2007, 2009, and 2013 in the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. The authors adjusted the effects on incident changes in happiness and life satisfaction for people’s changing incomes and personal circumstances.

The study has policy implications, particularly in the developed world where the typical citizen eats an unhealthy diet. The findings could be used by health professionals to persuade people to consume more fruits and vegetables.

Dr Redzo Mujcic, research fellow at the University of Queensland, said: “Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet. There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables — not just a lower health risk decades later.”

The authors found that alterations in fruit and vegetable intake were predictive of later alterations in happiness and satisfaction with life.

Less likely to die

A previous study of 65,226 men and women indicated the more fruit and vegetables people ate, the less likely they were to die – at any given age.

Risk of death by any cause over the course of the study was reduced by:

  • 14% by eating one to three portions of fruit or veg per day
  • 29% for three to five
  • 36% for five to seven
  • 42% for seven or more (up to around 10 portions a day)

Fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, followed by salad and then fruit.

Truthfully, I think all of us instinctively know that consuming more vegetables and fruit helps to make us healthy. However, a 2012 poll for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) suggested that only 20% of Britons consume the currently recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

The easy way to get your 8-a-day

The easiest way I know to increase your intake of fruits and veggies is to drink them and I’ve found juicing to have a positive impact on both my physical and mental wellbeing.

I should point out that the NHS guidelines juices and smoothies say:

“One 150ml glass of unsweetened 100% fruit or vegetable juice can count as a portion. But only one glass counts, so further glasses of juice don’t count towards your total 5 A DAY portions. A smoothie containing all the edible pulped fruit or vegetable may count as more than one 5 A DAY portion, but this depends on the quantity of fruits or vegetables or juice used, as well as how the smoothie has been made.”

I think the key point in this statement from the NHS guidance is “depends on the quantity of fruits or vegetables or juice used, as well as how the smoothie has been made.”

I disagree with the view that only one glass of juice counts, but I suspect the guidance is largely focused on processed, shop bought juices and it is important to remember that Freshly extracted juices and pasteurised bottled juices are NOT THE SAME. In fact, they are not even close.

Want to know more? Read these 2 articles:

When juices or smoothies are processed and pasteurised they are denatured, killing off natural enzymes and massively reducing nutrients. Many commercially produced juices then also have preservatives, colours, sugar and artificial sweeteners added to them.

When you make fresh juice at home you are consuming live food, full of enzymes, vitamins, mineral and micronutrients in a form that enables out bodies to make rapid use of them.

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