Listening to how your body feels after eating certain foods is essential to determining the best nutritional pattern for your physical and mental health, but here’s a hint: a cornerstone of this should be vegetables. Referencing a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sapola described 75 adults in North Dakota who were weren’t hitting their recommended veggie intake. “In this study they had their control group which kept eating very few vegetables and then their intervention group, which was given vegetables from different groups.”
The intervention group ate two and a half servings of veggies (plus legumes, avocados, and other nutrient-dense plants) per day. At the end of eight weeks, these participants scored higher on a happiness scale compared to both their initial rating and the control group. “It’s a small study, but it speaks to the gut-brain connection and the power of simply making very small changes,” Sapola says. “These people weren’t eating 10 or 20 cups of vegetables a day. It was just two and a half cups.”
One interesting point of note in this study is that two and a half cups is still not an exceptionally large amount of vegetables, especially in relation to what leading healthcare experts recommend. “When you look at some of the therapeutic interventions with vegetables and people like [physician] Terry Wahls, M.D., she recommends 12 to 15 cups of vegetables a day. So two and a half is still on the very low side,” adds Sapola. “The Mediterranean [diet] plan usually has around four cups of vegetables a day.” Moral of the story? Even small dietary changes can make a major impact on your well-being.