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On carrots and curiosity: Eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life

Authors


Abstract

Objectives

Our aim was to determine whether eating fruit and vegetables (FV) is associated with other markers of well-being beyond happiness and life satisfaction. Towards this aim, we tested whether FV consumption is associated with greater eudaemonic well-being – a state of flourishing characterized by feelings of engagement, meaning, and purpose in life. We also tested associations with two eudaemonic behaviours – curiosity and creativity.

Design

Daily diary study across 13 days (micro-longitudinal, correlational design).

Methods

A sample of 405 young adults (67% women; mean age 19.9 [SD 1.6] years) completed an Internet daily diary for 13 consecutive days. Each day, participants reported on their consumption of fruit, vegetables, sweets, and chips, as well as their eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, creativity, positive affect (PA), and negative affect. Between-person associations were analysed on aggregated data. Within-person associations were analysed using multilevel models controlling for weekday and weekend patterns.

Results

Fruit and vegetables consumption predicted greater eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, and creativity at the between- and within-person levels. Young adults who ate more FV reported higher average eudaemonic well-being, more intense feelings of curiosity, and greater creativity compared with young adults who ate less FV. On days when young adults ate more FV, they reported greater eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, and creativity compared with days when they ate less FV. FV consumption also predicted higher PA, which mostly did not account for the associations between FV and the other well-being variables. Few unhealthy foods (sweets, chips) were related to well-being except that consumption of sweets was associated with greater curiosity and PA at the within-person level. Lagged data analyses showed no carry-over effects of FV consumption onto next-day well-being (or vice versa).

Conclusions

Although these patterns are strictly correlational, this study provides the first evidence that FV consumption may be related to a broader range of well-being states that signal human flourishing in early adulthood.

Statement of contribution

What is already known on this subject?

  • There is growing evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (FV) is related to greater happiness, life satisfaction, and positive affect. These associations are not entirely explained by demographic or health variables including socio-economic status, exercise, smoking, and body mass index (BMI).
  • Recent experimental and daily diary research suggests that FV consumption may be a causal factor in promoting states of positive well-being.
  • Research has examined the links between FV consumption and hedonic well-being – whether people feel good (vs. bad) and satisfied—but has not addressed links between FV consumption and eudaemonic well-being— whether people feel engaged and experience their lives as meaningful and purposeful.

What does this study add?

  • It provides the first evidence that eating FV is related to greater eudaemonic well-being in a naturalistic setting.
  • Eating FV was also related to greater self-reported curiosity and creativity.
  • FV consumption may underlie a broad range of experiences that signal flourishing.
  • Future randomised controlled trials of FV should include measures of eudaemonic well-being as outcome variables.

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