Grapefruit

It’s easy to think of eating healthy as a long game. Sure, it’s more work now, but it’ll pay off years down the road.

But a new study published in PLoS One is suggesting that if you eat your broccoli and have an apple a day, you could see psychological benefits in less than two weeks.

Yes, admittedly that sounds a little like a bad advertisement – eat your veggies and see results within two weeks, or your money back! – so let me fill in a few more details.

Researchers from New Zealand decided to investigate the short-term benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption by recruiting 171 young adults, who they then divided into three groups:

  • A group who continued their diet as normal
  • A group who received vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables as well as text-message reminders to eat fruits and vegetables
  • A group who was given two additional servings of fruits and vegetables a day

The first thing to note is that there ended up being no real differences between the first two groups – the normal diet group and the voucher group. This suggests that encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables is no easy task. Apparently, you have to actually physically give them fruits and vegetables every day – even giving them access to free fruits and vegetables and texting them repeatedly doesn’t seem to do the trick.

Once people do up their fruit and vegetable consumption, though, a number of psychological benefits might be waiting for them.

After 14 days, the third group (who actually did eat more fruits and vegetables) reported several positive changes in their lives: they scored higher on vitality, on flourishing, and on overall motivation.

Now, the study didn’t look at why fruits and vegetables had this effect on people. But for those who are a little impatient, there’s no doubt that the result is good news: eating healthy doesn’t have to be an exercise in delayed gratification. It may be that upping fruit and vegetable consumption can make you feel more vital, motivated and ready to take on life right away.

Image: Flickr/Rosana Prada