Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but now there may be another reason to load up on fresh produce — it helps boost mental health, clarity and motivation, according to a study published in the journal PLOS One.
Up until now, there has been inconclusive research to support the theory that fruits and vegetables can be beneficial to mental health. A team of researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand set out to investigate the possible connection even further.
The scientists studied 171 young people between the ages of 18 and 25. They split the large group in three and asked each group to follow a specific eating routine for two weeks.
The first group was instructed to continue with their normal diet, while the second group was encouraged through texts and pre-paid vouchers to eat more fruits and veggies. Finally, the third group was given extra servings of fresh produce everyday, including carrots, kiwis, apples and oranges.
In just two weeks, the third group of participants, who consumed an average
of 3.7 servings of produce a day, reported a significant improvement to their mental well-being and a boost in their motivation.
The second group, who received text reminders and vouchers, did not report a similar improvement. The researchers also noted that this group was more likely to eat their vegetables cooked in a casserole or with their meal, whereas the third group ate their vegetables and fruits raw.
“The message from this study is we should be giving people more fruits and vegetables to eat, not simply reminding people to eat their 5+ a day,” Dr. Tamlin Conner, lead researcher and professor in the university’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement. “People in dormitories, children in daycare centers, patients in hospitals, employees in the workplace, could be provided with fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.”
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating two servings of fruit per day and three servings of vegetables. Although the participants ate just under four servings of fruits and vegetables, eating the daily amount of recommended servings may also lead to improved mental well-being.