Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vegetables Make You Happy! Those Optimistic Carotenoids

I spend a pretty decent amount of time on Facebook.  

Aside from being able to see what's happening with friends and family across the country, it also provides me with the ability to see what articles they're reading online.  Often, those articles can lead me on the path to self-discovery... and even a blog post.

That happened yesterday.

While perusing my wall, I discovered an article from the Daily Mail written by Anna Hodgekiss.  The title, Another Good Reason to Eat Your Greens: It Makes You More Optimistic About the Future, caught my eye.  This article was an eye opener for me.

We all know that I'm optimistic... sometimes to a fault.  

I'm the sort of person that, if a plane crashed into my backyard, I'd notice that it missed a tiny patch of carrots and rejoice - ignoring the fact that the rest of the yard was decimated.  This isn't much of an exaggeration.  My optimism can be quite puzzling to those of my friends that are more cynical and even pessimistic.

I've always wondered why.  What makes me such an optimist?

Well, according to this article, the answer might be my diet.

How odd!

According to Anna Hodgekiss's piece, in a study done by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that people with higher levels of optimism appear to also have higher levels of carotenoids in their bloodstream - up to 13% higher.

Carotenoids are plant pigments that can turn into vitamin A within the human body.  As we all know, vitamin A is an antioxidant.  Antioxidants reduce the levels of free radicals (unpaired molecules that seek to attach to other molecules within the body, with negative effects in many cases).  Carotenoids, therefore, are great for the body.

But this is old news.  We already know this.

But here's the thing.  Antioxidants are believed to effect stress levels.  Specifically, they decrease them.  Therefore, eating ample portions of fruits and vegetables is even more important than most of us realize. They don't just effect basic, physical health.  They may benefit emotional health, as well.


Every morning I get out my machine and juice the heck out of fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables used vary slightly, but the basic recipe is:

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2-3 ribs of celery (depending on my mood)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
In the spring I add mint into the mix.  We all know my mint addiction!  I also throw in additional yumminess.  Sometimes it's a few strawberries, sometimes blueberries.  This morning it was around half a cup of pomegranate.

Add to this the fact that I munch on carrots and other vegetables throughout the day, and my servings of produce quickly rise.  Indeed, Hodgekiss discusses the recommended servings of vegetables in various countries, and I appear to be doing quite well!

The Department of Health has spent at least £4million on its ‘five a day’ advertising campaign since it was launched in 2003.
In contrast, the French are told to eat ten portions a day, the Canadians between five and ten, and the Japanese 13 portions of vegetables and four pieces of fruit.  (daily mail)

Now, it needs to be remembered that this study does not say that there is proof that optimism is caused by fruit and vegetable consumption.  It does show that there is a correlation that can't be ignored, however.

We already know that doing what's best for the environment means doing our best to eat organic produce while reducing the amount of meat consumed, buying local whenever possible.  This article also shows that it's good for our bodies.

And that makes sense.

The farther I travel along the trails toward environmental responsibility, the better my body feels.  This study rings true to me.  Granted, my evidence is anecdotal, but it looks like science just may back that up.

Now go eat your vegetables!!!

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