Since the beginning of time, fruits and vegetables have played a vital role in human health. Most people generally know all the benefits we get from eating different fruits and veggies: immune system support from oranges, vision health from carrots, and muscle strength from spinach.

So why exactly did an article about apples, carrots, and oranges go viral?

Whenever Mama said, “Eat your vegetables,” in the back of our minds we knew she wouldn’t be pushing us to eat them if they weren’t good for us. But what we didn’t know is just how good for us they really are until now.

Fruits and Vegetables Boost Psychological Well-Being in Just Two Weeks

So what made 62,685 people read an article about food we’ve been eating for years? Well, the research published by the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand revealed a causal relationship between fruits and vegetables and psychological well-being. And as an added bonus, we learned that the benefits were virtually immediate!

Until now, many of the benefits we knew about fruits and vegetables were associated with physical health. So it’s amazing to learn from this recent study that a higher intake of fruits and veggies can result in increased motivation, vitality, and improved general psychological well-being for the short term. Who doesn’t want to read about how to feel great by doing something as simple and natural as eating more fruits and veggies?

But, parents, pay attention. If you plan on giving your kids a boost by upping their fruits and veggies, there’s one interesting component to note in the study.

The Study

The study involved 171 students between 18 and 25 years old that were broken up into three groups. At the beginning and end of the study, psychological assessments were performed on each participant to evaluate mood, vitality, motivation, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and other determinants of mental health and well-being.

The first group continued with their normal eating pattern. The second group was personally served two additional servings of fresh fruits and vegetables consisting of carrots, kiwi fruit, apples, and oranges daily. The third group was provided prepaid produce vouchers and sent text reminders to eat more fruits and vegetables.

What did they find?

Participants who were personally served extra fruits and vegetables consumed the most servings, at 3.7 servings daily.. This was the group that experienced improvements in psychological improvements, specifically related to vitality, motivation, and flourishing and all these improvements after just two weeks of extra intake.

Parents, what you should also take away here is that the best way to leverage the psychological benefits for your young adults is to actually serve them the fruits and vegetables. The other two groups showed no improvements in psychological well-being over the 2-week period, which includes the group that was sent reminders and given free vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables.

So How Many Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Should I Eat Daily to Reap the Benefits?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day for adults, although t it also depends on your age and level of activity. But to boost your mood, experts recommend eating more than the daily recommended amount. In this study, young adults ate 3.7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. One other study revealed a significant boost in happiness in participants that went from eating no fruits and vegetables to at least eight portions a day. In that particular study, the change in life satisfaction occurred within two years.

Keep in mind that different fruits and vegetables offer varying levels of nutrients, and serving sizes vary based on the type of vegetable or fruit. For instance, 1 cups of raw spinach or lettuce is equivalent to one serving.

To get a general understanding of what a serving looks like for different  fruits and vegetables, here’s a helpful breakdown:

One Serving of Vegetables:

  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables (about the size of a small fist)
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable juice

One Serving of Fruits:

  • 1 medium fruit (medium is defined as the size of a baseball)
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked or canned fruit
  • ½ cup juice

What’s the Best Way to Serve Your Fruits and Vegetables?

How you prepare your fruits and vegetables can make a big difference in how much nutrition you get from them. Although this isn’t an absolute for all vegetables, one of the best ways to eat fruits and vegetables is to eat them raw. Many nutrients are heat-sensitive and are destroyed when exposed to heat for a prolonged period. So eating veggies in their original state keeps the enzymes, vitamins, and phytochemicals intact.

Steaming and microwaving vegetables are also preparation methods that keep your veggies chock-full of  nutrients. The less exposure to water and heat, the better. If you’d rather stir fry, that’s ok too, as long as you avoid overcooking them to a mushy state.

What does this tell us? If raw and less-cooked fruits and veggies are the way to go, we really don’t need much prep time to make a healthy meal that provides physical and psychological benefits to our families.

From childhood obesity prevention to nutritious foods for kids’ lunch boxes, Hospitality Health ER is committed to helping you raise healthy, thriving families. With only one in four Americans eating the recommended amount of  fruits and vegetables daily, it’s about time we give our families’ a little nudge to start eating more of what is oh so good for them.