Beyond the nutrients: fruits and veggies as a source of well-being.

People mainly eat fruits and vegetables for their nutrients. Yes, they are rich in minerals and vitamins that nourish our bodies. Also, fruits and veggies are filling foods and usually can be easily prepared and consumed. Finally, they taste DELICIOUS.

However, fruits and veggies can go beyond providing us with nutrients and minerals: they can also provide us well-being. Recent research shows that they can also provide mental health benefits and might be a long-term investment in future well-being (Nature, 2017). Well, how is that possible?

First, we need to change how we perceive food: is it only something that ‘feeds’ me? Or is it something that provides me not only nutrients but also well-being? That’s what the ‘food as well-being’ perspective is all about. This perspective entails ‘a positive psychological, physical, emotional, and social relationship with food at both the individual and societal levels’ ( Block, L. G. et al, 2011). Food is not only about texture and taste, but also about culture, community, pleasure, comfort, and kinship. Therefore, food has a direct impact on our well-being, since it is intertwined with our own relationship with food itself.

The article published in Nature in 2017 describes how research has provided some new insights regarding the consumption of veggies and fruits at stressful, difficult times (emotional eating) actually led to immediate beneficial psychological effects. Veggies, followed by sweets, contributed to the largest share. Thus, although we believe that fast-food, pasta, and other ‘unhealthy food’ should count more, better and healthier choices counted as much as or even higher to the participants’ happiness. Crazy, huh?

Although the study has its limitations (as it discusses them at its discussion part), I believe it brings us questions to ponder on: what is our real relationship with food, and especially with ‘fast food’? Why do associate ‘sad’, stressful moments with binge eating pasta, pizza, fast food, etc? Why do we consider pasta, bread, pizza ‘bad’ food? Why can’t we have a normal and ‘healthy’ relationship with them?

All in all, while we need to ponder on these questions, we should also consider adding more veggies and fruits to our daily diets. Why? They do not only provide us nutrients, are filling, and taste delicious, but seem to bring us happiness. So… why not? 🙂

If you are curious about research on the topic… check these two!

Block, L. G. et al. From nutrients to nurturance: A conceptual introduction to food well-being. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing30, 5–13 (2011).

Wahl, D.R., Villinger, K., König, L.M. et al. Healthy food choices are happy food choices: Evidence from a real life sample using smartphone based assessments. Sci Rep7, 17069 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17262-9

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