Who would have thought that a generous serving of your favorite fruits and vegetables would actually increase your sense of psychological well-being? Researchers are now revealing that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will not only help to reduce your waistline but increasing your consumption of fruit and vegetables may offer a drug-free prevention-oriented path to good mental and physical health with positive side-benefits.
At an age when young adults begin to form their life-long eating habits and when pizza, soft drink and burger consumption are the norm, introducing a diet that puts more emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables may be a health-promoting step in the right direction. A recent study of young adults ages 18 – 25 found that individuals who were given two extra daily servings of fresh fruit and vegetables reported improved vitality, increased motivation and increased psychological well-being.
The physical health benefits of fruits and vegetables are well known including improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of some cancers and greater longevity. Prior research on fruit and vegetable consumption has pointed to additional positive outcomes including greater happiness, higher life satisfaction and greater social/emotional well-being. Instead of snacking on chocolate, coffee, chips, fries, donuts and other junk food, those snacking on fruits and vegetables consistently reported positive changes.
Vitamin C and carotenoids (found in carrots) are two of the most reliable biomarkers of fruit and vegetable consumption. Researchers monitoring this type of increased vitamin consumption concluded that consuming more fruits and vegetables can be correlated with reduced fatigue, increased vigor, feelings of cheerfulness, greater energy and a feeling of being “full of pep.”
Greater fruit and vegetable consumption in young adults was also correlated with greater curiosity, creativity and originality which the authors classified as qualities of “flourishing behaviors,” known to be a sign of good mental and physical health. In conclusion, researchers commented that consumer education on the topic may not be enough to motivate the quantity of fruit and vegetable consumption found to promote measurable changes. Subsequently, the recommendation for improved well-being parameters was to put greater emphasis on stocking fresh fruits and vegetables in food service settings including dorms, cafeterias and in the workplace as a replacement for fast-food and less healthy snack items.
Simi Summer, PhD is an organic advocate, independent researcher, educator, and free lance writer. She is a strong proponent of organic consumer education and informed consumer choices.