The researchers were not able to determine why eating more fruits and veggies enhances mood, but Radavelli-Bagatini suggests their high nutrient count likely plays a role. “Vegetables and fruits contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and carotenoids that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and therefore improve mental wellbeing,” she said.
And she’s not alone in that thinking: There’s an entire field of medicine (called nutritional psychiatry) dedicated to studying the effects food has on the mind.
While eating 2 cups of produce per day may be enough to help lower stress levels, don’t just call it quits there. To meet daily nutritional needs (i.e., proper intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.), the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends healthy adults eat at least 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.