Somebody told me years ago I needed to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and alive forever. I’m sure you’ve heard this too. Eat five servings a day and you’re promised an eternal life.
Turns out that’s s little lie. But see, I counted on that lie. I thought that if I just stick to 3 servings (which also took a lot of effort and dedication on my side) I’ll somehow be fine and make it to 100.
The Reason Why You Actually Need 8
Recently I was researching the benefits of fruits and vegetables (while drinking coffee and eating a doughnut) and I came across some data that showed we actually needed 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Not just 5. Five are just to survive and be miserable. If you want to get some extra benefits beyond just the one benefit that The Bee Gees promised you (I’m obviously talking about their “Staying alive” song here), you’ll need to eat some more fruits and vegetables. Eight to be exact.
But what can those extra benefits be? Glowing skin? Avoiding a disease that may or may not happen? No, I’m talking real benefits. Benefits that you’ll feel TODAY! Benefits that will make you crave carrots and spinach like never before.
Now let’s take a look at the extra benefits that make fruits and vegetables more valuable than gold.
Lately everyone is trying to become happier. If you google “How to be happier” (which I definitely have never done) you’ll find all kind of advice – Be Independent, Fake it Until you Feel it, Travel the world barefoot, Hug trees, Shave your legs during winter…
Those last ones are some bonus tips from me.
But here’s what’s been proven in real research: More fruits and vegetables make you happier.
Not kidding and NOT lying. People made studies on that.
Let’s take for example a study with over 280 young adults. During 21 days volunteers had to write an internet-based diary every day. In that diary they reported what they ate and how they felt on that particular day. Result? People were feeling happier when they ate more fruits and vegetables. And not only that, they felt happy even the day after.
Now note here, I’m not talking about people’s eating habits overall – it’s about changes that occur from one day to another. So eating fruits and vegetables will not result in happiness some mystical day in the future. The effects are almost immediate.
How many portions of fruits and vegetables did the happiest people eat in that study, what do you think? Eight, my friend. Eight.
Why eight? Nobody knows. But that same number (almost) was confirmed by another study with over 80.000 people. In that study people who ate more fruits and vegetables felt happier and had a higher life satisfaction than people who didn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. And that even after controlling for other factors such as employment status, income, education, illness, smoking and BMI.
Does cake also make you happy?
When we think of food and happiness, many of us immediately think of cake. Or, pizza. Or something with cheese. But it turns out they don’t make you happy at all. Another lie, I’ve been told all my cake eating life. And seriously if you consume too many sweets, fried stuff and pastries, you might even get depression or anxiety. That sucks, but it makes sense: in the long run simple carbs cause chronic inflammation. That chronic inflammation is associated with a number of diseases and depression is one of them.
Re-enter the study with the 280 young adults. Those guys were not only happier when they ate more fruits and vegetables, they also felt calmer.
Why? Vitamin C, which is unique to fruits and vegetables, is an essential part of the body’s response to stress. The exact mechanism of how this works is still unknown, but what we do know is that our adrenal glands release more of this vitamin in stress situations.
And we’re not the only ones. Goats, who are able to produce vitamin C on their own (which we humans aren’t and are very jealous about), are shown to produce more vitamin C under stress conditions. While I always ask myself what kind of monster would want to stress a cute little goat to make this experiment, I can’t deny this fascinates me. It also suggests vitamin C is an important part of an adequate response to stress.
Related: 9 Beauty Benefits of Vitamin C
So here’s what you do next time you’re stressed out: drink a smoothie. Not coffee. Smoothie. Got it? Okay.
You’ve probably seen this if you’ve ever read a description for a diet: “You’ll have more energy, will feel happier and your farts will smell like flowers!”. That’s pretty accurate. Turns out the energy part might be true, if that diet is rich in fruits and vegetables.
Remember the 21-day study with the young adults? How can you forget it – it’s all I talk about here. Well it showed not only that more fruits and vegetables made young adults calmer and happier, they felt also more energetic.
Aaand another 10-day study with young male participants showed that men who were more emotionally vulnerable felt more energetic and lively when they ate 2 kiwi fruits every day. They were also happier and showed a decrease in fatigue and depression compared to men who had a mood disturbance and only ate half a kiwi daily.
What did people do in the past to boost creativity and come up with new ideas? Yes, they drank.
These days people don’t appreciate drinking at work. Go figure, they say it’s unacceptable. But to be fair – it’s also not very healthy and makes you look old.
Now what can you do if you don’t want to become an old looking alcoholic, but still have to come up with great stuff? Try eating more fruits and vegetables.
That works as a study with over 400 young adults showed. For 13 days volunteers, again, had to report what they ate and how they felt each day. Surprise!!! People who ate more fruits and vegetables were more creative. Also they were especially creative on days when they ate more fruits and vegetables.
Now you’d say: This doesn’t make any sense.
Of course it does. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, many B vitamins and carbohydrates. We need all these to make and further convert dopamine. This little chemical is related to better mood, higher motivation and engagement, all related to creativity.
Just like for creativity, that study showed that fruits and vegetables increase curiosity.
Now if you’ve ever read an article about successful people you’d know that curiosity is one of the common traits they all have.
After all curiosity doesn’t just make you google things and spy on your neighbors. Curiosity makes you explore and question things, it makes you want to learn new skills, it makes you invent weird things. It makes you create new recipes. So eating some berries from time to time might also make you successful.
Nobody ever told me this, when I was filling out my IQ test, but a higher serum level of vitamin C can raise your IQ by four points. That would make me a little Genius, if you can be a genius with IQ of around 124.
Fruits and vegetables are our only (<- panicking a little) food source of vitamin C, that miracle machine. Doesn’t this just make you want to eat a lemon and do an IQ test right after? I guess now you know what I’ll be doing after I finish this list.
As I mentioned in this post, optimism is one of the key factors to improve your immune system and is related to longevity. The bigger optimist you are – the healthier you’ll be, the longer (& happier) life you’ll live.
Serum levels or carotenoids (those are antioxidants found in green, red and orange fruits and vegetables) were higher for people who were more optimistic in one study. When you eat more green, red and orange fruits you get more carotenoids into your body. And then you’re optimistic to delusion.
When you get older, bones start to break easier, muscles get weaker and your memory is something you don’t remember. Getting old sounds like a lot of fun. The worst part of is, you’re not in control of your own life anymore.
The good news is, these things can be prevented. Because fruits and vegetables are alkaline they’re among the foods that might prevent bone and muscle loss. That means, that you’re going to be able to walk and take care of yourself longer if you eat enough fruits and vegetables.
As for your memory, because fruits and vegetables contain lots of antioxidants they’ve been shown to prevent oxidative stress that is involved in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer. So by eating a healthy diet, you can do quite a lot to prevent or at least postpone these age-related problems.
I couldn’t make this list without mentioning that you’re gonna look awesome.
Of course we all know that fruits and vegetables are great for weight loss, because they’re filling, but don’t have that many calories. Result – you lose weight and look like a model. But that is not enough!!! Fruits and vegetables also happen to contain nutrients for healthy complexion, less wrinkles and clear skin. So if not for being smart, eat fruits and vegetables for being pretty.
The fact that something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables can help you live longer, no matter who you are, what kind of education you have or how much money you earn, is quite amazing. It just proves that at a very basic level we’re all equal. (I know: duuhhh, Stella!!)
But the most important conclusion for me from this research is that fruits and vegetables don’t just change your life healthwise. They change the way you feel and think. And they do it quite immediately.
You don’t just eat fruits and vegetables to avoid getting sick one day, while living a mediocre life full of regrets and anxiety. No, you eat fruits and vegetables, so you can have a great life, a life full of excitement now. So you can let your body work for you, not the other way around. Only then you can live your life to your full potential. You eat more fruits and vegetables to feel good now, be more productive, more creative, more successful and more you now.