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Can Fruits and Vegetables Improve Your Mood?

New research indicates fruits and vegetables may improve your mood.

Nashville, Ark. – 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 this stressful time?

            Researcher 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.

            The results of the studies indicate that people 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 shows the vast majority of people in the US still consume less than the recommended amounts.

            So then how much fruit and vegetables do we need and what would count as an “extra” serving? According to 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 all depends on gender, age, and activity level. You can go to to find out your serving needs.

            What counts as a serving of fruit or vegetable? In general, 1 cup of fruit, 1 medium-sized fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group. 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.

            One way to help you visualize how much fruit and vegetables you need is to make half of your plate from these two food groups. For example, when you sit down to lunch or dinner, look at your plate before you start eating. If you divided the plate in half would it be filled with fruits and vegetables? If not, strive to meet this goal.

            It is challenging to get a minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables during the day. Here are some tips to boost your 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 add extra flavor.
  • Have a variety of frozen chopped vegetables on hand to save time on meal preparation.
  • Add frozen berries to oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies. They add color, flavor and antioxidants!
  • 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, apple or banana. If using packable fruit cups, be sure to choose those packed in its own juice or 100% fruit juice rather than those packed in syrup.
  • At dinner, add fruit like strawberries, mandarin oranges, pears or apples to salad. You can also add dried fruit to salads.
  • 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.

Locally grown, fruits and vegetables are starting to show up at the Farmers Market and gardens. Soon, they will be available in the grocery stores. Why not pick up some today and support our local farmers and improve your mood during Covid-19?

For more information on eating healthy contact the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You may also contact me by email at or visit our webpage at The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe was shared by Katherine C. and uses frozen vegetables. Katherine submitted this recipe for the Howard County 4-H Dairy Foods Contest which was held in April. 4-H members submitted their recipes along with pictures or videos of them making the recipe. Check out the videos plus see what our 4-H members have been doing during Covid-19 at

Kat Style Broccoli and Cauliflower au Gratin

1 (12 oz.) pkg. steamable broccoli florets

1 (12 oz.) pkg. steamable riced cauliflower or cauliflower florets

4 oz. cream cheese, cubed

¼ c. milk

½ c. sour cream

1 ½ c. shredded fiesta blend or cheddar cheese

¼ c. Italian style breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Cook broccoli and cauliflower in the microwave according to package instructions and set aside. Place cream cheese and milk in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute or until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Place vegetables in a microwave safe bowl and toss together. Pour cream cheese mixture over the vegetables and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Microwave for 2 minutes. Mix breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and sprinkle over vegetables. Garnish with chopped green onion, if desired. Makes 8-10 servings.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.