Feeling gloomy and need a lift? Forget that expensive bottle of wine - just munch on a cheap cabbage.

It has long been known that people who eat healthier tend to be fitter, but a new study suggests that compounds in fruit and vegetables help us have a sunnier outlook on life.

Researchers asked 12,500 Australians to keep food diaries for up to six years and answer questions on their state of mind.

Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University, one of the study team, said eating eight portions of fruit and veg a day could bring as much happiness as an unemployed person getting a job.

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"Our study is consistent with the idea that real food is important for the mind," he said.

Try these delicious meal ideas from bite.co.nz

Vege kebabs by Geoff Scott

Baby beetroot and spinach salad

Roast vegetable salad with tahini and yoghurt dressing