Research Shows: Increased Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Leads to Happier People

Eating more fruits and vegetables is widely seen as a way to improve physical health, but now, there may be another reason to hit the salad bar. Eating more fruits and vegetables might make us happier and more satisfied with life. A recent study found that people who increasingly ate more fruits and vegetables were happier and had improved overall well-being. The changes were quick, less than 2 years. The size of the result was significant as well. This study showed that mental health could greatly increase from healthier eating even faster than physical health would benefit.

Fruits and Vegetables Daily Recommendations:

  • 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily with the most health benefits associated with the higher intake.
  • 5 servings of fruits and vegetables would be around 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables (or the combination of the two) to reach the minimum daily requirement
  • 9 servings of fruits and vegetables would be around 4 cups of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables (or the combination of the two) to reach the higher requirement

Fun Fact: The average american only consumes 1.1 cup of fruit daily and 1.6 cup of vegetables, this shows how many people are missing out on all the proven health benefits associated just by adding a little more color and variety into their diet.

Vegetable Amount That Counts As 1 Cup of Vegetables
Broccoli 1 cup, chopped or florets
Carrots 1 cup, strips, slices, or chopped, raw or cooked 2 medium 1 cup baby carrots (about 12)
Lettuce 2 cups, raw, shredded, or chopped
Summer Squash or Zucchini 1 cup, cooked, sliced or diced
Fruit Amount That Counts as 1 Cup of Fruit
Apple ½ large apple (3 1/4 diameter) 1 small apple (2 ¼ diameter) 1 cup, sliced or chopped, raw or cooked
Applesauce 1 cup
100% Fruit Juice 1 cup
Cantaloupe 1 cup, melon or diced balls
Grapes 1 cup whole grapes or cut grapes 32 seedless grapes
Dried Fruit ½ cup dried fruit

For a more extensive list of fruits and vegetable recommendations: MyPlate

Ways to Incorporate More Fruits and Vegetables 

  1. Aim for a fruit or vegetable at each meal or snack (example: a handful of grapes as a snack or a big salad for lunch)
  2. Create a breakfast smoothie! (example: 1 banana, handful of spinach, 2 tsp. chia seeds, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice, and 1 tsp. flaxseed)
  3. Snack on crunchy vegetables like carrots and cucumbers with hummus!
  4. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat
    cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
  5. Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  6. Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and
    carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
  7. Keep whole fruits nearby as an easy grab and go snack. (Example: I keep apples and almonds in my car so that if I get hungry (or hangry) I have an easy and nutritious snack option close by versus stopping at a convenience store or fast-food restaurant.
  8. Add vegetables to your morning omelet (example: mushrooms and spinach pair well with eggs)

The researchers didn’t find that any particular fruit or vegetable worked better than another, so pick some that you enjoy and challenge yourself to try new ones. It all counts and can help increase your health overall as well as your happiness. By consuming more fruits and vegetables you are investing in your future.

Cinthia Scott, RD, LD, CNSC 

References: 

  1. Mujcic R, J.Oswald A. Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(8):1504-1510. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260.
  2. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables
  3. http://www.eatright.org/~/media/eatright%20files/nationalnutritionmonth/handoutsandtipsheets/nutritiontipsheets/20waystoenjoymorefruitsandvegetables.ashx

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