It's long been known that a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables can improve your physical health. Now it seems that produce-rich menus correlate with good mental health as well. The study, carried out in conjunction with Dartmouth University in Hanover, NH, examined the produce-eating habits of 80,000 diverse people in Britain. The authors assert that the vast majority of mental health studies up to this point have ignored diet as a factor.

The researchers used several large scale surveys taken in Wales, Scotland, and England for their data. They discovered that, in general, measures of happiness and positive mental health rose proportionately with the number of produce servings reported. It is not clear whether the greater intake of fruits and vegetables can boost mental health or if people who are in better shape emotionally make an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Still, it's worth incorporating more produce into your diet. Here are some easy ways to get more of the greens, reds, oranges, and purples your body needs:

  • Pair your morning eggs with veggies. Grated zucchini, mushrooms, and onions are a perfect way to fluff up an omelette and give you a healthy start.
  • Throw frozen or fresh vegetables into soups to flesh them out.
  • Purée apples, pears, or berries to use as a sauce for pancakes or French toast. And use the purée to create a fruit or vegetable salsa for fish and chicken.
  • Add chopped spinach to spaghetti sauce.
  • Ditch the chips but keep the dip. Dunk carrot and celery spears for a crunchy post-dinner snack.
  • No time for breakfast? Keep chopped bananas and strawberries on hand in the fridge so you can whip up a smoothie. Add a dollop of honey and the milk of your choice, and enjoy it on the way to work.
  • Get creative with kabobs. Along with beef and chicken, throw some peppers and onions on a skewer. Peaches grill well, too.
  • Use a baked potato as a canvas for all kinds of colorful toppings—chopped broccoli, tomato, and string beans go well with a little salt and sprinkle of low-fat cheese.
  • Rethink salad. Instead of a little bowl of wilted iceberg lettuce as an accompaniment to the main course, make the salad the main course. Fill a bowl with a generous amount of dark, leafy greens topped with chickpeas and edamame. Dress lightly with olive oil and vinegar and enjoy with a piece of crusty whole grain bread for a satisfying dinner.

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE reviewed this article.




American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables."

Dartmouth University. "Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables?"

University of Warwick. "7-a-Day For Happiness and Mental Health."