Happy eating: How many servings of produce keep you well?

Happy eating: How many servings of produce keep you well?

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COVENTRY, United Kingdom — Thanks to an abundance of research on the link between a healthy diet and positive mental health, we know by now that eating right plays a huge role in being happy. The latest study, however, has gotten even more specific.

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and Dartmouth College have discovered that consuming a certain number of fruits and vegetables per day leads to optimal happiness. That magic number: seven.

"The statistical power of fruit and vegetables was a surprise,” study researcher Sarah Stewart-Brown, a professor of public health at the University of Warwick, said in a statement.

Researchers studied 80,000 people in England who participated in various national health surveys between 2007 and 2010. The study, to be published in the journal Social Indicators Research, focused on participants’ mental well-being, tracking factors that included mental disorders, happiness, nervousness, feeling “low,” and how well participants reported their own health.


According to the University of Warwick, researchers found that “mental well-being appeared to rise with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables people consumed.” This sense of well-being peaked at seven 80-gram portions a day.While many health departments recommend consuming five servings a day for good physical health, the amount required for good mental health had never been fully examined.

"Our findings are consistent with the need for high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption for mental health and not merely for physical health," the research team wrote in the study’s findings.

Study co-author Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at Warwick Medical School, said in a statement that “much remains to be learned about cause-and-effect and about the possible mechanisms at work, and that randomized trials should now be considered.”

Other researchers, however, seem to be happy with this discovery alone. Fellow co-author, economist Andrew Oswald, a professor at the University of Warwick, said: “This study has shown surprising results and I have decided it is prudent to eat more fruit and vegetables. I am keen to stay cheery.”

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Lindsay Maxfield


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