Is Eating More Salad the Key to Happiness?

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“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is one thing. We know that eating fruits and vegetables has long-term health benefits, including reducing our risk for cancer and heart disease. But a new study shows that increasing our fruit-and-veggie consumption may actually make us happier and that those positive psychological benefits may be felt fairly soon after our diet improves.

According to researchers at the University of Warwick, England, and the University of Queensland, Australia, who expect to publish their findings in the American Journal of Public Health, each extra portion of fruits or vegetables a person consumed a day — up to eight — increased his or her sense of happiness and well-being. Study participants who went from eating essentially no fruits or vegetables each day to eating eight portions of them got a satisfaction boost that was equal “to moving from unemployment to employment,” according to a release.

The study, for which 12,000 “randomly selected” participants kept food journals and were assessed psychologically, showed dramatic improvements in terms of their mood and outlook within 24 months of making dietary improvements.

Although the study didn’t examine the cause for the improvements, the researchers suggest it may have something to do with antioxidants. Further research is needed, they say, but they hope their findings will motivate people to eat better.

“Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet,” Dr. Redzo Mujcic, of the University of Queensland, said in a statement. “There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables — not just a lower health risk decades later.”

Because, really, who doesn’t want to be happier?

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