Five a day for mental health and wellbeing

Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in diet, health, general | 2 comments

Fruits and vegetables

Have you been sensing a theme on Flashfree of late? I can’t help gravitating toward stories about mental wellbeing and reducing stress, namely because I have devoted the past few months toward regaining some semblance of balance after years of residing in the opposite flow. And so, once again, I do hope that you’ll allow me to indulge and share some pretty fascinating data:

Eating fruits and vegetables daily is associated with an increased odds of mental wellbeing in both men and women.

Mind you, researchers have not yet proven cause and effect. Yet, the data are pretty compelling! In fact, when British researchers evaluated certain influencing health-related factors in almost 14,000 British respondents participating in the Health Survey for England, they found that consuming (or not consuming) fruits and vegetables daily was the one health behavior that was most consistently associated with both high (and low) mental wellbeing in women and men.

Which other factors did they take into consideration?

Additional health-related behaviors that have been linked to mental health include body mass index, smoking habits and alcohol intake. In this case, Individuals who rated the lowest in terms of mental wellbeing tended to be obese, heavy or ex-smokers, never or ex-drinkers and reported eating the fewest daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, the the odds for having a lower overall mental wellbeing appeared to have increased exponentially with increasing smoking habits and decreasing fruits and vegetables intake.

Despite these factors, only intake of fruits and vegetables remained relevant and significant for both men and women; different BMI levels or alcohol intake had little bearing. What’s more? These findings tended to be more consistent for women than for men.

Let’s break down the numbers:

  • Overall, 33.5% of individuals with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables daily
  • 6.8% of people with the lowest mental wellbeing who reported eating less than one serving daily
  • 31.4% with high wellbeing consumed three to four portions daily
  • 28.4%of people who ate one to two servings a day had high mental wellbeing

It’s truly linear, isn’t it?

So, what is mental wellbeing?

Think all of everything. It’s more than the absence of mental illness or some sort of psychological issue. Indeed, its implications are huge: mental wellbeing comprises completeness, full-functioning, life satisfaction, optimism, hope, self-esteem, resilience, coping, spirituality and good relationships. Think of the implications should fruits and vegetables be identified as something that actually drives mental wellbeing rather than contributes to it. An easy, enjoyable fix? Five a day? I’d say!!



  1. 9-26-2014

    While I think I do a pretty good job of that, I’d almost have to count to assure myself. As my diet has shifted more to organics, raw and good-for-you foods, ignoring the occasional gelato, I do feel better!

    • 9-26-2014

      I would guess that if you are eating healthy, you are meeting the odds well! Most people don’t really know what a serving is.

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