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What to eat for better mental health

Feeling the winter blues? It might be time to eat yourself happy! Five reasons why fruits and veggies are good mood foods.


Ever notice how a low mood gets you reaching for the comfort food? A cup of hot, spicy soup on a cold day. A slice of apple pie that tastes just like Grandma’s. That first spritz of citrusy goodness as you peel an orange. Everybody knows that food has the power to lift your mood instantly. But did you know that what you eat can also play a significant part in your long-term mental health?


People who eat more fruits and vegetables report higher levels of mental wellbeing, experience lower incidence of anxiety and depression, and may even have bigger brains!


Here’s the evidence.


    • AN APPLE A DAY KEEPS THE BLUES AT BAY: A 2019 study of more than 40,000 people in the UK showed that eating even one extra serving of fruits or vegetables a day had a positive effect on mental wellbeing. The authors found the extra dose of produce had a similar mood-lifting benefit to taking a twice-weekly walk. 

    • HEALTHY HABITS = HAPPY AGING: Women in their 50s who eat more than 2 daily servings of fruits have a lower risk of depression, according to a 2015 study of almost 7000 women. The fruit effect was clear even after adjustment for other health factors including smoking, alcohol, body mass index, physical activity, marital status, education, and existing health conditions.

    • EAT 5-A-DAY TO GET HAPPY, RIGHT AWAY: Another study followed 12,000 Australians over 6 years, tracking their food choices and reported levels of happiness. The authors found that while the physical benefits of a plant-rich diet are often only observable over the course of decades, people experience a happiness uptick almost immediately.

    • THE TASTY WAY TO BOOST YOUR MOOD: Professor Felice Jacka (author of Brain Changer: The Good Mental Health Diet) has found that simply eating better – no complicated fads or exclusions, just following standard advice for a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies – results in a 30% lower risk of depression.

    • BIGGER FRUIT BOWL, BIGGER BRAIN: Researchers in the Netherlands found that people who eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish have bigger brains. A study of more than 4000 people revealed that eating well boosts the volume of your grey matter and hippocampus (memory center) by an average of 2mm – equivalent to staying 6 months younger than your friends who don’t eat their greens.


Studies like these don’t prove that fruits and veggies cause specific mental health outcomes; people, and nutrition, are far too complex for that. But they show a significant link between what we eat and how we feel: in other words, a healthy diet rich in plant foods is a safe bet for anyone interested in their mental wellbeing.

The best news is that getting more fruits and veggies is one of the simplest changes you can make to your daily routine. Five a day is a great goal, but you can start small - as the research shows, even one piece of fruit a day makes a difference. It’s easier than exercise, cheaper than therapy, and kinder than restricting calories – and you can start today! So why not make it step one on your happiness plan? 

 If you know you need some support to set up or stick to your new healthier eating habits, kencko can help. Along with a daily instant smoothie that supplies at least 2 servings of fruits and vegetables (no prep, no blend, no waste ;-), every kencko subscriber gets free advice from a registered dietitian, including a one-to-one phone consult. Visit our shop to start your plan today.