logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Vegetables Linked to Improvement in Psychological Health

An analysis of ten studies indicates that people who start eating more vegetables and fruits could see an improvement in psychological health.
Handsome african young man eating a healthy vegetable salad using a fork to eat lettuce, happy and smiling sitting on the table

When you were little, did anyone tell you to eat your vegetables? Eating more fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables, may boost your sense of well-being. An analysis of ten studies that included 33,645 individuals determined that people who ate more vegetables had a more positive emotional state (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2019). The studies didn’t seem to show that eating your vegetables will prevent depression or anxiety. However, the analysis points to an improvement in psychological health.

More Produce and an Improvement in Psychological Health:

The investigators note that some previous research suggests benefits to psychological health when people consume the recommended amount (or more) of fruits and vegetables. They chose only interventional studies (experiments) or prospective ongoing studies. Among the ten trials analyzed, however, several different measures of psychological health or mental well-being were used, so direct comparisons from one to another were difficult.

The improvement in psychological health was apparent even within a relatively short time frame, under one month, although many of the studies were longer term, running for six weeks up to two years. The researchers hypothesize that the folate found in green leafy vegetables might help provide adequate fuel for brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

How Many Servings Does It Take?

It isn’t clear how many servings of vegetables you might need to feel more content. The research also didn’t show whether raw vegetables would be more helpful than cooked ones, although there was a hint that might be the case. People who ate few vegetables at the start of their study appeared to get the biggest benefit from increasing their intake by three or four servings a day. Some studies also found a robust improvement in psychological health among participants who ate eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

The scientists conclude,

“In conclusion, this review identified that increased F&V consumption has a positive impact on psychological health. … Overall, based on the limited evidence to date, vegetable consumption is relevant to psychological health and could contribute to lifestyle medicine as an affordable preventative public health care strategy.”

Learn More:

If you would like some guidance on fitting more vegetables into your diet, we suggest Recipes & Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy. This book contains a number of delicious recipes from nutrition experts we have interviewed. 

Rate this article
4.8- 19 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy

Favorite recipes from the experts & easy instructions for treating common conditions. Healthful, delicious recipes and practical remedies for blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure & indigestion.

Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy
  • Tuck, N-J et al, "Assessing the effects of vegetable consumption on the psychological health of healthy adults: a systematic review of prospective research." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz080
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 5 comments
Add your comment

This article hits the nail. Fresh fruits and veggies are your bodies best insurance for it’s ability to fight “ALL” diseases. The federal guidelines used used to say 4 to 5 but now it is up to 8 to 10 because of the quality of produce available. Most are picked “green” in depleted soil and before they have much quality and then shipped, processed, gassed, dyed, stored and whatever else happens to them before they are offered to us in the market arena. So even though you buy “fresh” produce from the market you are not getting quality produce. Then you cooked it to death. Most, not all, produce has reduced nutritional value after being cooked. That is why I depend on vine ripe, organic produce from my Juice Plus+

Since, the Wahls diet has been able to make major improvements and reversals in many cases of neurologically involved diseases, it is not surprising that this study found improvements in mood.

Although I have always eaten vegetables at dinner and perhaps less at lunch, along with some berries I have started the Wahls diet and am striving to get serving each of leafy greens, sulfurous vegetables (crucifers, alliums or mushrooms) and colorful vegs or fruit at each meal. So: nine servings a day of mostly vegs And some fruit.

I was just looking to create optimal health, but now that I think about it, both my husband and I are in better moods!

Well, it improves your physical health so that should also improve your mental health, if you are feeling better! Duh!!

I think that the cattle/sheep ranchers have been influential in securing a solid place for meat in FDA dietary recommendations, perhaps more solid than is warranted. If memory serves, Michael Pollan has reported on this.

I hardly eat fresh veggies because by the time they’re put on the store shelf they are old, and I can taste it. I’ve found that the frozen ones have a shorter trip to the table, as they are frozen just after harvesting and retain their freshness. I’m not keen on fruit either. If you’ve ever had your own garden and cooked veggies as soon as they are picked, you’d know what a real vegetable tastes like! To get fresh tomatoes I go to a stand out in front of a home garden. Expensive, tho.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^