It turns out your parents were right to nag you about eating your greens.
Those who eat more fruit and vegetables benefit from a happiness boost comparable to getting married or being offered a new job, a study found.
Experts believe the vitamins in your five a day may ward off depression and anxiety, with the carbohydrates they contain increasing ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Researchers from the universities of Leeds and York asked more than 45,000 people in-depth questions about life satisfaction – and found they were happier when consuming more fresh produce.
The researchers said getting people to eat better could be a ‘low-cost’ way to improve the nation’s mental health.
Respondents who did not eat vegetables during the week – and then started eating them four to six times a week – had the same rise in life satisfaction as a single person getting married. Equally, those who increased their intake of fruit and vegetables by 10.5 portions a day – from at least one portion a day – enjoyed the same wellbeing boost as if they were offered a new job. A portion equals a fistful of raw vegetables or a single piece of fruit.
Every one daily extra portion of fruit or vegetables gave respondents to the study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, a happiness boost equivalent to almost eight days of walks a month.
NHS figures show only 29 per cent of English adults eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day – falling to 18 per cent in under-15s. Vitamin C, found in strawberries and peppers, has been shown to lower inflammation in the body linked to depression. And B vitamins, found in fruit and leafy vegetables, may protect mitochondria, whose failure is associated with anxiety and stress.
* Brits consumed 4.4billion meat-free meals last year – an increase of 150million from the year before. Retail analysts at Kantar Worldpanel found that 1 per cent of all households now include a vegan, 5 per cent have a vegetarian and 10 per cent have a flexitarian – someone actively cutting back on meat and dairy.