Fruits, veggies, mental health

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Academic journal articles aren’t known for being inspiring, but this paragraph made me say “whoa”. It does such a beautiful job of summarizing the findings on how fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) can affect mental health in numerous different ways:

“There is now good evidence that higher FVI is related to better mental health. Research has established that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower incidence of mental disorders, including lower rates of depression, perceived stress, and negative mood. People who eat more fruits and vegetables also have a higher likelihood of optimal mental states, such as greater happiness, positive mood, life satisfaction, and socio-emotional flourishing, which captures feelings of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life. Importantly, these associations between FVI and various mental health indicators appear to be (i) dose-dependent (to various points) whereby higher intakes of fruit and vegetables (FV) are associated with increasingly higher mental health scores, (ii) robust when controlling for demographic, economic/social, and health covariates (e.g., gender, income, education, BMI, smoking, exercise), and (iii) bolstered by longitudinal and intervention research that has shown causal relationships between higher FVI and mental health. For example, using longitudinal data from 12, 389 people in the Household, Income, and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, Mujcic and Oswald (2016) found that a shift from “low” to “high” intake of FV across a period of 2 years resulted in significant improvement in life satisfaction, showing an average gain comparable to moving from unemployment to employment. Interventions have also shown that increasing fruit and/or vegetable consumption improves depressive symptoms among clinically-depressed adults, improves feelings of vigor in young men with low baseline levels of vitamin C and a higher baseline mood disturbance, and increases flourishing in young adults with a low baseline consumption of FV. Some research has indicated that positive mood states can also shift people toward healthier food choices, and negative mood states such as stress can shift people toward unhealthier food choices and overeating; however, the longitudinal and experimental research designs outlined above provide convincing evidence that FVI can also have a direct and causal impact on subsequent psychological well-being.”

Powerful stuff, right?! Few things can give us so many benefits with so few risks.

Unfortunately, many health problems can make it harder to eat fruits and veggies. Everything from getting to the grocery store to cooking to chewing, swallowing, digesting and more can be difficult or even impossible. But this excerpt is a reminder that it’s very possibly worth the effort to make these foods feasible when we can.

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