Eat This Today, Feel Happier Tomorrow
Grapes: nature’s Prozac? It sounds a little crazy, but what you eat today may determine how psychologically good you feel tomorrow, shows new research from New Zealand.
Eating junk like candy or potato chips can leave you feeling depressed, low, and unhappy, according to a few recent studies. But a team from the University of Otago wondered whether eating fruit and vegetables might have the opposite effect. To find out, they asked 280 adults to keep a daily journal of what they ate and how they felt for 3 weeks.
The results: The average study participant ate 1.7 cups of fruit and vegetables each day. But on days when people ate more than that, their self-reported positive affect—defined as feeling calm, content, cheerful, and energetic—increased roughly 3 percent per additional serving, the study shows. And that’s not all: Those good feelings tended to linger throughout the following day, says study author Tamlin Conner, Ph.D., a professor of health psychology at Otago.
There are a few possible explanations for this: Studies have tied several vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables—including folate and flavonols—to improved mood, Conner explains. “These foods also contain complex carbohydrates, which may increase concentrations of brain serotonin,” she adds. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter research that’s been linked to feelings of well-being and happiness.
Not enough evidence for you? Consider this: Eating 7 to 8 cups of fruit and vegetables each day more than offsets the negative feelings associated with unemployment, according to a similar study of 80,000 Brits conducted by Dartmouth and U.K. researchers. That study also found those who ate 5+ cups of fruits and vegetables daily were 27 percent happier and more satisfied with their lives than people who ate less than 1 serving per day.
The takeaway is obvious: Just eat more of the good stuff, Conner advises. Try to consume at least 5 cups of fruit and vegetables each day, avoid chips and corn-based snacks, and you should feel a hell of a lot better than the average Joe, her study suggests. Start with these 22 easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to your daily diet.