nutrition

Eating more veggies, fruit can make you happier

Dec. 20, 2012 at 8:03 AM ET

Barry Gutierrez / AP /
By Emily Main, Rodale.com

Feeling stressed at work? Hit the salad bar on your lunch break. Economists from Dartmouth University and England have stumbled onto findings that suggest that eating more vegetables and fruits could boost your happiness.

In a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a U.S. nonprofit that studies how our economy functions, the authors analyzed three surveys from the United Kingdom that measured both psychological well-being and factors that influence human health, such as diet. The psychological surveys asked a combined total of 80,000 people about things like work-related stress, feelings of nervousness and worry, level of satisfaction with their lives, and ability to deal with problems and life's difficulties. The diet surveys assessed how frequently each person ate fruits and vegetables.

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The authors' conclusion? The more vegetables you eat, the happier and more satisfied with life you are. In fact, in one survey, eating seven to eight portions of vegetables was more strongly associated with happiness and overall well-being than employment status. On the whole, the paper concluded that well-being peaks at seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but the surveys also showed that people who ate just five servings a day (the amount that the USDA recommends) were as happy--or very nearly so--as people who ate higher amounts.

The authors call their results "only suggestive" of a link between the fruit bowl and happiness levels, because even though they tried to control for income, work status, overall health, and other factors that play a role in how you feel about your life, there are a lot of other factors that can influence happiness. And, they add, it's not clear whether vegetables make people happy or happy people eat more vegetables.

Nevertheless, this study definitely shows a connection between your psychological health and your diet. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. And eating more vegetables is certainly not going to hurt, particularly in light of another new survey showing that 63 percent of American workers consider themselves unhappy and burned out.

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