There seems to be a big disconnect when it comes to fruit and vegetables.
We tend to grow up hearing how important it is to eat them, while engaged in an act of resistance against our parents who appear serious about that spoonful of peas or floret of broccoli.
A cynic might say the only thing they’re good for is sparking an argument – first in childhood, then later as adults.
Four out of five Australians are not getting enough fruit and vegetables in their diet, with men faring worse than women, according to a massive 2017 CSIRO study of 145,000 adults. Only 24 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men were eating the recommended two fruits and five vegetables a day.
According to the Heart Foundation, three in five Australians aged 30 to 65 years perceived what they usually eat to be healthy.
See the disconnect?
It’s not only the heart that suffers: It’s the head.
University of Leeds researchers analysed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study that essentially tracked the diet and self-reported well-being of 40,000 people between 2009 and 2017. The finding?
Cognitive and emotional wellbeing ticked upward with an increase of fruit and vegetables – and that was irrespective of age, education, income, lifestyle and health.
What does that mean specifically? The scientists suggest that eating “just one extra portion of fruits and vegetables a day could have an equivalent effect on mental wellbeing as around eight extra days of walking a month (for at least 10 minutes at a time),” according to a prepared statement.
The big question is why?
The authors consider a variety of reasons, all supported by previous research: The role of vitamins for subjective wellbeing for example; or the fact that fruits and vegetables tend to be carbohydrate dense.
“There is some research to suggest that the positive effects of fruit and vegetable consumption could also be partly due to increased carbohydrate intake, as carbohydrate-rich foods increase concentrations of brain serotonin,” the authors write.
“It is also possible that not all carbohydrates affect wellbeing in the same fashion … Complex carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables may enhance a positive effect, whereas refined sucrose more commonly found in sweets and sugary soft drinks may worsen mood.”
But it might also be the case that we eat better when we’re feeling better about ourselves, and that eating better enhances our more positive view of ourselves. That one good thing feeds another so to speak.
Our food choices are important to not only our mental but physical health.
Exercising will become easier and our motivation to become fitter will come naturally from within – not from guilt that we’re ‘unhealthy’.
Every good choice, like exercising, will bring its own reward.
Start with something manageable, achievable and rewarding, like taking part in a community event such as the Mother’s Day Classic, and start to feel the mental and physical benefits for yourself.
The New Daily is a media partner of the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic, which takes place in 100 locations across Australia on Sunday, May 12, raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help fund life-saving breast cancer research projects. Registrations are open here.