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Feed Your Good Mood with Fruits and Vegetables

Feed Your Good Mood with Fruits and Vegetables: Main Image
Students had more positive moods on days that they ate more fruits and vegetables
There are certain foods we reach for when we are feeling blue, but are they the foods that really help us feel better? Probably not, according to a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, which found that the best moods were experienced on the days, and the days after, eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Tracking food and mood

The study included 281 healthy college students who agreed to fill out daily online questionnaires about their food choices and their moods for 21 days. Using the questionnaires, they recorded their consumption of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, pastries, and chips or crisps each day. They also recorded their experience of negative moods such as sadness, depression, anxiousness, tension, and anger, and positive moods such as happiness, cheerfulness, calmness, contentedness, and excitement.

Healthy diet leads to happiness

The study showed some interesting relationships between foods and moods:

  • The students had more positive moods on days that they ate more fruits and vegetables.
  • Positive mood was also linked to the previous day's fruit and vegetable intake, but the previous day's mood did not affect fruit and vegetable intake. This suggests that the relationship was due to fruits and vegetables causing a positive mood, rather than a good mood causing healthier food choices.
  • The students had more negative moods on days that they ate more French fried potatoes and potato chips and fewer fruits and vegetables.

The researchers calculated that, in order for fruits and vegetables to contribute to a good mood, the students needed to eat about 7 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. "We found strong relationships between daily positive affect [mood] and fruit and vegetable consumption," they said. "The current findings suggest that many apples a day is part of a balanced approach to keep the blues away."

Eating for happiness

Making sure you get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day can stave off a number of chronic health problems, and now it seems it might even make you happier. Here are some other food tips to brighten your mood:

  • Have some fish. People who get higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from eating fish or taking fish oil have a lower risk of depression.
  • Limit sweets. Sugar and refined carbohydrates (mainly white flour products) cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels than can trigger fluctuations in mood. Studies have found that cutting out sugar can help people who have depression.
  • Identify food sensitivities. Eliminating commonly reactive foods like wheat and dairy can lead to increased energy and brighter mood for some people.

(Br J Health Psychol 2013;doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12021)

Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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