Do Fruits and Vegetables Hold The Secret to Happiness?
You may be familiar with the science of happiness, a positive psychology approach to understanding how gratitude, self-reflection, and forgiveness can boost your sense of well-being. But did you know that research suggests fruits and vegetables may hold the secret of happiness?
According to Project Happiness, recent research has revealed that 90 percent of our happiness is associated with our inner essence while only 10 percent is due to external circumstances. How do you think these findings jive with new research from the University of Warwick and the University of Queensland, in which researchers suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables can significantly boost your level of happiness?
Do you know how parents try to get their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and they are happy when they succeed? One reason they are pleased is that parents know that consuming lots of these foods benefits health in a variety of ways.
That’s not really the kind of happiness the scientists are talking about here.
Fruits, vegetables and the happiness study
This study, which is one of the first major scientific efforts to delve into the psychological rather than the physiological benefits of eating lots of produce, followed 12,385 randomly chosen adults who were asked to maintain food diaries and who agreed to undergo psychological testing.
Here’s what the researchers found:
- Happiness benefits were identified for each extra daily portion of vegetables and fruits the participants consumed, up to 8 portions daily
- For example, participants who increased their produce intake from nearly none to eight portions daily would experience an increase in happiness similar to if they went from being unemployed to employed
- The improvements in happiness occurred within 24 months of the increase in fruit and vegetable consumption
According to one of the study’s authors, Professor Andrew Oswald, although it can take many years for people to experience the physical health benefits of improving their diet, such as protecting against serious disease (e.g., cancer, osteoporosis), “well-being improvements from increased consumption of fruits and vegetables are closer to immediate.”
Why do fruits and vegetables improve happiness?
To help us understand why fruits and vegetables can improve happiness, the authors pointed to previous research in which experts suggested there is a relationship between being optimistic (happy) and the level of carotenoids in the bloodstream. In that Harvard University study, the investigators examined the association between optimism and the concentration of antioxidants in serum of 982 men and women who were participating in the Midlife in the United States study.
The authors evaluated self-reported optimism and serum concentrations of nine different antioxidants. They found that for every standard deviation increase in self-reported optimism, the concentrations of carotenoids (e.g., beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, lycopene, but not vitamin E) increased by 3 percent to 13 percent.
This finding lead the authors to conclude that “optimism was associated with greater carotenoid concentrations.” They also noted, however, that the effects may be a two-way street: that optimists may be more likely to practice healthy behaviors associated with more intake of antioxidants, and that more antioxidants “are likely associated with better physical health that enhances optimism.”
So will eating up to eight portions of fruits and vegetables daily eventually increase your happiness? Since these foods are so beneficial for your physical healthy anyway, what do you have to lose by boosting your intake today? Here’s to a happier tomorrow!
Also Read: The search for the source of happiness has ended
Boehm JK et al. Association between optimism and serum antioxidants in the Midlife in the United States study. Psychosomatic Medicine 2013 Jan; 75(1): 2-10
Project Happiness. Science of happiness
University of Warwick
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