It will be a surprise to no one that I love vegetables and fruit. My plant-based diet (note: plant-based, not plant-only) is big on seasonal and sometimes frozen and canned veges - they're the things I base my meals and recipes on, before I add the other components.
Eating lots of vegetables and fruit has long been associated with good health. It's one of the habits shared by the healthiest and longest-living populations on the planet, and there's tons of evidence to suggest that eating more plants will lower our risk for many diseases.
But eating more vegetables and fruit is not only good for our bodies. There's growing evidence it's also good for our mental health.
A recent study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine looking at the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and wellbeing has found just that - the more, and the more often we eat veges and fruit, the more our mental wellbeing increases.
Researchers looked at data from 50,000 people in the UK. They found wellbeing rose in what they called a "dose-response way" with both the number of portions of fruits and vegetables consumed, and the number of days in a week people ate either fruits or vegetables. In other words: eat more plants, feel better.
This makes sense, right? Most of us probably tend to feel happier when we eat better. If we have a period of stress, work overload or other disruption to our usual routine and we're not eating as well as we should, we not only feel it in our body; we are also likely to feel it in our mood.
Interestingly, scientists have quantified this in relatable ways. Previous Australian research found that by increasing their fruit and vegetable portions by eight per day (not insignificant, but not impossible), a person could get the same average estimated life satisfaction gain as moving from unemployment to employment.
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It's not really fully understood how vegetables and fruit confer this magical effect. More research, as they say, is needed. There are some leading theories though.
One is the role of vitamins. For example, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C and E have been shown to help manage the body's level of oxidative stress and lower inflammatory markers, which have been associated with the onset of depressive mood. B-vitamins play an essential role in preventing mitochondrial dysfunction, which has been associated with stress and anxiety.
The researchers say carbohydrates might come into it too. Carbohydrate-rich foods, like some fruits and veges, increase concentrations of brain serotonin (the opposite of what happens with refined carbohydrates like sweets and sugary drinks).
Mental wellbeing is a huge focus at the moment, at a society and government level. So here's a thought: why not make it easier for people to get a quick, easy, drug-free wellbeing benefit? Taking the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables could pay off not only in physical health gains but also with a boost to our national mental health.
• Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide; www.healthyfood.com