Health and Medicine

Eat Your Fruit and Veggies and Be Happy

happy fruit vegetables

Parents all over the world are constantly telling their kids to eat their veggies “because it’s good for you”. Studies have long shown that the risk of cancer and heart attacks can be greatly reduced by a regular intake of fruit and vegetables. Recent research done at University of Warwick went beyond the traditional scope in an attempt to explore the psychological well-being effect of eating extra – up to 8 portions – of fruit and vegetables per day.

The results of the research show that people can experience an increase in life satisfaction to the same degree as moving from unemployment to employment would bring, simply by changing their lifestyle from eating almost no fruit and vegetables at all to up to eight portions a day. The overall positive health changes were noticed within 24 months.

Large positive psychological benefits were experienced by the more than 12,000 randomly selected people that took part in the study. The subjects’ psychological well-being was measured and they were expected to keep food diaries.

Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick, also observed that physical-health benefits such as cancer protection only accrues decades later, while eating fruit and vegetables boosts happiness far more quickly, with other large psychological and health benefits already observed after a short 2 years. This should strengthen people’s motivation to eat healthy food considerably.

The happiness effect is cumulative up to eight portions per day – it increase incrementally for each extra daily portion of fruit and veggies. During the research, done in 2007, 2009, and 2013 and involving 12,385 randomly sampled Australian adults, the teams from the University of Queensland, Australia and the University of Warwick, England, adjusted the effects on incident changes in life satisfaction and happiness to take into account personal circumstances and changing incomes.

In the developed western world, the typical citizen eats an unhealthy diet and the results of this study could very well be used to persuade people to consume more fruits and vegetables. As such, it becomes an important tool in the knowledge base for health professionals. Not only does healthy eating now result in just a lower health risk decades later, but the payoff from eating fruit and vegetables becomes apparent almost immediately. Dr Redzo Mujcic feels that these results could be more effective in convincing people to have a healthy diet than traditional messages.

The campaign was run in some Australian states with the “Australian Go for 2&5 Campaign”. This campaign promotes the consumption of two portions of fruit and five portions of vegetables every day. An interesting aspect of the study to note is that alterations in fruit and vegetable intake could be used to predict later alterations in happiness and satisfaction with life. Other influences such as changes in people’s life circumstances and incomes were taken into account during the research.

This study could be a link to current research into antioxidants which suggests a relation between optimism and carotenoid in the blood. To prove this correlation, further research is needed.

The full study was published in American Journal of Public Health.

  • jim b

    Clearly an unfounded study. I’ve taught high school biology for 25 years, and I can tell you definitively fruits and vegetables aren’t any more rewarding than a plate of succulent meat.

    • janet

      To the teacher — wasnt the operative word ‘happy’? No one is talking about the immediate and short-term rewards of the chemically fed – fat-laden corpse of a tortured animal on your plate. The topic and discussion is about eating fruit and vegetables and it making one ‘happy’.

    • Benjamin Kruger

      I glanced at the full article and quickly discovered that the research is well founded upon a widely respected methodology known as a longitudinal study, wherein the researchers follow a random population sample over a period of time to either disprove or reveal a correlation (which doesn’t imply causation) between a treatment and suspected results.

      I really hope you haven’t taught two generations of students to ignore the scientific method on lieu of their own snap judgements, preconceptions and and personal tastes.

  • Pineapple Pineapple

    The results are self evident to most, but unfortunately fruits and vegetables are much more expensive than junk/processed food :( Did they calculate what it would cost to eat 8 of them a day?

    • atalkingbear

      healthy foods being more expensive than regular foods is a myth propagated by the food industry to keep people from making their own. in no way is it more expensive to cook your own food. plus you have to roll your healthcare costs into your food costs since eating junk all day will literally age you and kill you FAR FASTER than eating healthy.

      • Julie L.

        As an extremely poor person, that isn’t a myth. I can make meals of pancakes or biscuits from a bag of flour faaaar cheaper than I can anything else, with the one exception of beans and rice.

    • Foxhunter

      I don’t totally buy that argument. If you shop the sales and make your own food eating healthy can be done without being expensive. Frozen veggies are cheap and healthy. Bulk beans, lentils, grains. Using meat as more of a condiment and flavor enhancer. Avoiding processed meats. And eating fast food only on rare occasions. For the $28 it costs to take 4 people to McDonalds for a Big mac meal I can cook a feast. Plus, your energy level will be so much higher that you will be able to work more, harder and make more money, on top of being happier(:

      • Mick

        You’re failing to take into account the cost in time and effort. Poor people not only work longer hours, they spend more time getting to and from their jobs, aren’t able to take advantage of bulk buying because they have less available cash on hand, and often live in “food deserts” requiring even more time and effort to get to sources of fresh foods. Even being part of a government assistance program or visiting a food bank can require lost wages from time spent. A loaf of crappy white bread is lots cheaper than whole grain bread and on and on, not to mention that equivalent calories in fruits and veggies will cost you more than what’s found in a bag of chips or a fast food burger.

  • Corporate Serf

    Yeah, all the vegetarians and vegans I know are pinnacles of health (i.e. sickly).

    • xahdica

      Oh shit, this persons completely original insult made me not want to be vegetarian anymore!

    • janet

      Yeah – Serf – pinnacles of health and UR the ultimate in boring non adventuresome living. Keep on being sad with your SAD diet.