Fruit and vegetables are a vital part of a balanced diet, but they are not limited to physical health benefits. Growing fruit and vegetable intake can boost psychological well-being in as little as 2 weeks, new research shows.
Study leader Dr. Tamlin Conner of the Psychology Department at the University of Otago in New Zealand and colleagues found that young adults who were given extra fruits and vegetables every day for 14 days consumed more of the produce and reported a boost in motivation and vitality.
Recently the researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS One.
One cup of fruit is the equivalent of half a grapefruit or a large orange and one cup of vegetables is proportionate to a large red pepper or a large, baked sweet potato.
Studies have shown in recent years that consumption of fruit and vegetables can also boost mental health. Dr Conner and team set out to further explore this connection for their report.
Increased motivation, vitality with higher intake of fruits and vegetables
The researchers recruited 171 students between the ages of 18 and 25 to study, and for 2 weeks, they were divided into three classes.
One group followed their usual eating routine, one group individually received two additional servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (including carrots, kiwi fruits, apples and oranges) each day, while the other group received coupons for prepaid produce and text reminders to consume more fruits and vegetables.
At the beginning and end of the study, participants were subjected to psychological tests that measured mood, energy, motivation, depression and anxiety symptoms, and other mental health and well-being determinants.
The researchers found that the majority of these items were eaten by participants who individually obtained extra fruits and vegetables over the 2 weeks at 3.7 servings per day, and it was this category that reported psychological well-being improvements. Specifically, these participants demonstrated changes in health, motivation and flourish.
The other two classes during the 2-week period reported no changes in psychological health.
In addition, signs of depression and anxiety were not shown to increase in any of the classes. “Most research that links depression to dietary patterns has been longitudinal, meaning that possible differences in ill-being can be established over a much longer period of time rather than our brief 2-week period,” the authors note.
Nevertheless, the researchers say their findings indicate that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables by personal delivery can lead to rapid psychological well-being benefits.
The team concludes that:
“Providing young adults with high-quality FV [fruits and vegetables], not texting them reminders to eat more FV and giving them a voucher, resulted in improvements to their psychological well-being over a 2-week period.
This is the first study to show that providing high-quality FV to young adults can result in short-term improvements in vitality, flourishing, and motivation. Findings provide initial validation of a causal relationship between FV and well-being, suggesting that large-scale intervention studies are warranted.”