(NaturalNews) Although it has been well established that a better diet leads to higher energy levels and improvements in mood, completely reconfiguring your diet can be a daunting task. Fortunately, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Otago and published in the British Journal of Health Psychology has found that simply eating a few more servings of fruits and vegetables each day can make you calmer, happier and more energetic.
In order to examine the relationship between food consumption and daily emotional state, researchers had 281 young adults fill out a questionnaire about their age, gender, ethnicity, height and weight. Each participant was then given access to a secure online food diary, which they would access each evening to record their intake that day of fruits (excluding dried fruit or fruit juice), vegetables (excluding juice), and three separate categories of junk foods (such as cookies, chips and cakes). Participants also rated how they felt with nine positive adjectives and nine negative adjectives. The results were analyzed after 21 days.
"On days when people ate more fruits and vegetables, they reported feeling calmer, happier and more energetic than they normally did," researcher Tamlin Conner said.
In order to determine whether fruit and vegetable consumption preceded the improvements in mood, the researchers conducted further analysis, and found that people did indeed also feel better on the day after they had eaten more fruits and vegetables. This effect was found to be independent of body mass index (a measure of obesity).
No other foods were found to improve mood and energy. However, the researchers found that feelings of sadness and depression led to a higher consumption of unhealthier foods.
"The adverse association between ego-threatening and interpersonal stress or negative affect and unhealthy eating behavior is consistent with previous research," the researchers wrote.
A simple fix
After analyzing the findings further, the researchers concluded that eating a total of seven to eight half-cup servings of vegetables each day would produce meaningful mood and energy improvements in young people. According to co-author Bonnie Wright, an easy rule of thumb for achieving this intake is simply to make sure that at each meal, half your plate is covered with vegetables, and to have fruits or vegetables (like apples or carrot sticks) as a snack during the day.
Further studies should now be performed, the authors suggested, to further test for a causative relationship between higher fruit and vegetable intake and improved mood and mental well-being.
The Otago study is part of a growing body of research linking fruit and vegetable consumption to improved mental health. Another recent study, published by researcher from the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College, found that British adults who ate more fruits and vegetables also scored higher on measures of mental well-being. The greatest benefit was seen in those who ate seven servings per day.
Most Western governments recommend consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day in order to minimize risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic health conditions.