Produce has a positive effect on people’s emotional state
While this may sound like propaganda to my children, science has been finding even more reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables while cutting down on sugary treats. It’s not just the usual shtick about living longer, or lowering cancer risk, but also that people who made an effort to eat their veggies literally reported being happier than when they skipped their greens. While the positive effects up upping vegetables, and cutting sugar, can be measured relatively quickly, the effects are probably too delayed to get your average second-grader to put down a lollipop in exchange for some green beans.
Feeling better with better food
To study the how much of a difference vegetables might make, 12,000 Australians were tracked for two years. In addition to watching people’s diets, participants were also asked about how satisfied with their lives. Before any major health benefits, like lower cancer rates, could really be appreciated, people who ate more produce reported higher amounts of happiness. The shift was significant, ranking alongside the boost one would get from finally landing a good job. Even after actual changes in income or other factors were considered, this healthier diet made a difference.
While a fresh strawberry or well-cooked asparagus can be very satisfying, researchers assume there’s a physiological component to these gains. Pigments in produce called carotenoids have previously been associated increases in optimism. Alternatively, higher levels of vitamin B12 from the fresh food may also be boosting serotonin, a neurotransmitter that may play a role mood regulation.
Sad news for sugar-lovers
On the other end of the spectrum, it looks like sugar is nothing but bad news. A study with obese children focused on replacing extraneous sugar in their diet with other sources of calories, such as bagels instead of cake. Within nine days of these sorts of low-sugar swaps, tests found a huge lipid and protein reduction in the kids’ bloodstreams. For people in higher risk of heart disease, it appears that this kind of adjustment to diet would yield significant improvements for their cardiovascular systems. No word on how happy they felt with less cake though.
Source: Eating More Fruits & Veggies May Make You Happier by Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Live Science