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Mood Boosters During COVID 19 Social Distancing

University of Arkansas Extension Service

Fruits and vegetables have been recommended for cancer and disease prevention qualities.  There are plenty of studies to support these claims. Now new research also indicates that these colorful gems may improve your mood.  Who would not want to be in a better mood during our social distancing experience?

Researchers evaluating data from over 40,000 people discovered that increased intake of fruit and vegetables was linked to changes in mental health.  In this study the researchers tracked the same individuals over time.

Data from the study showed a positive association between the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten and the person’s self-reported mental health. What the researchers found was that consuming just one extra serving of fruit and vegetables daily could have the same effect on mental health as walking 8 extra days per month.

So then how much fruit and vegetables do we need and what would count as an “extra” serving?  Let’s look at what MyPlate recommends.  According to MyPlate.gov the average adult needs to get the preverbal “five a day”.  In general adults need at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables or more a day.   It depends on gender, age, and activity level.  You can go to MyPlate.gov to find out for sure what you need.

So then if we want to get in that “extra serving” a day of fruits and vegetables, what counts as a serving or one cup of fruit or vegetable.  In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group. In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the Vegetable Group.

Some folks find this difficult, including me.  Let’s look at some helpful tips to get in that “extra serving” a day of fruits and vegetables to elevate our mood!  Here are a few simple tips to boost fruit and veggie intake:

  • Keep a bag of fresh spinach in the refrigerator and add a handful to eggs, salads, and leftovers.
  • Have a serving of fruit after each meal as “dessert.” Add cinnamon to pears or apples to make them a wee bit fancy.
  • Have a variety of frozen chopped vegetables on hand to save time on meal prep.
  • Add frozen berries to oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies. They add color, flavor, and antioxidants to simple foods
  • At breakfast, add blueberries, strawberries, peaches or bananas to cereal, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, or pancakes. 
  • At lunch, include an orange, pear, grapes, or a banana. If using packable fruit cups, be sure to choose those packed in water or 100% juice rather than those packed in syrup.
  • At dinner, choose some cut-up fruit or dried fruit to add to your salad.
  • For snacks, keep a bowl of whole fruit on the counter or table within reach. Raisins and dried cranberries are an easy grab-and-go option as well.

 The results of the study indicate that those who consume more produce indicate a higher level of psychological well-being and satisfaction with life than those who consume less. One researcher noted, “There appears to be accumulating evidence for the psychological benefits of fruits and vegetables. Despite this, the data show that the vast majority of people in the US still consume less than the preverbal “five-a-day.” 

The University Of Arkansas System Division Of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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