A new study led by researchers in New Zealand and published in the British Journal of Healthy Psychology found that eating fruits and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life.
The study tracked 405 young adults for 13 days, and found that participants who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher levels of happiness, curiosity, and creativity.
Even more remarkably, participants tended to score higher on all of those measures on the specific days on which they ate the most fruits and vegetables.
The research team, led by University of Otago psychologist Tamlin Conner, writes that one possible explanation is the micronutrient content of fresh vegetables and fruit. They also point out that these foods contain higher levels of Vitamin C, which is: “an important co-factor in the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that underlies motivation and promotes engagement.”
In addition, the researchers point out, antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce bodily inflammation, which is known to protect against depression.
Of course, correlation is not causation. It’s possible, for example, that participants ate more fruits and vegetables on days when they felt better, and that in fact, fruit and vegetable consumption was caused by an elevated mood, rather than the other way around. We all know that sometimes we reach for “comfort foods” when we’re down, and most people don’t view kale salad as a comfort food. But maybe we should.
Perhaps the next time you’re feeling low, instead of downing a package of cookies, you’d be better off grubbing on a bowl of veggies.