Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

About The Buzz: Fruits & Veggies Increase Mental Well-being?

TheBUZZ Fruits & veggies increase mental well-being?

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

People considered to have a high level of mental well-being report a higher level of fruit and vegetable intake.

WHAT WE KNOW

Certain habits and behaviors, such as obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor dietary patterns are known to negatively impact your health. Knowing this, it’s not too much of a stretch to determine that these types of behaviors also have a negative impact on your mental health. To avoid illness, you try not to do certain things that you know will harm your physical and mental health. Have you ever wondered, however, how to improve your mental well-being? It is actually simpler than you think.

Let’s first define mental well-being, because it is more than the absence of mental illness. Mental well-being implies ‘feeling good’ and ‘functioning well’ and includes aspects like optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, independence, and healthy relationships with others. A lack of mental well-being is the basis for many physical and mental diseases, unhealthy lifestyles, and social inequalities in health.1

WHAT NEW RESEARCH TELLS US

A 2014 study in England asked nearly 14,000 individuals, representative of the English population, to report on different health behaviors in order to determine how different lifestyle choices impacted their mental well-being. Participants were asked questions about weight, diet, mental health, physical activity habits, smoking and alcohol consumption. Here is what they found:

  • Individuals in the lowest category for mental well-being were more likely to be obese, current smokers, never-drinkers or ex-drinkers and to report lower intakes of fruits and vegetables than those in the middle or highest categories of mental well-being.
  • People within the highest category of mental well-being were more likely to be never-smokers and report a higher level of fruit and vegetable intake.

OUR ADVICE

It is estimated that only about 17% of U.S adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.2 The most common type of mental illness is depression, affecting more than 26% of the U.S. adult population.2 People with lower levels of mental well-being are not flourishing, making it difficult to enjoy the richness of life and the fullness of their health. While the study demonstrated a correlation between mental well-being and fruit and vegetable consumption, it does not prove that fruits and vegetables necessarily caused the mental well-being. Regardless, it offers yet another positive reason to include more servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

6 Ways to Improve Your Fruit & Veggie Intake

  1. Strive to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies during every snack or meal.
  2. Refer to this helpful visual aid to understand realistic examples of what a serving looks like to help determine whether you’re eating as much as your body needs.
  3. Add more color and variety to your diet by trying new types of produce, which will increase your nutritional diversity.
  4. Discover new ways of cooking your produce – try baking, stir-frying, sautéing, grilling, stewing, baking, or steaming to draw out new flavors.
  5. Outsmart your brain! Check out our article on food cravings if you want to tackle your cravings and eat more fruits and veggies.
  6. Improve your home environment by placing fruits and vegetables in prominent places.

 

1 Stranges S., P.C. Samaraweera, F. Taggart, et al (2014). “Major health-related behaviours and mental well-being in the general population: The Health Survey for England.” BMJ Open 2014;4:9 e005878 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005878. View Article

2 Mental Health Basics. (2013, October 4). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. View Article

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