Beat the holiday season blues – with broccoli and berries!

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so the Christmas carol tells us, but not everyone is feeling particularly perky at this time of year.

Between running the gauntlet of overcrowded shopping malls in search of perfect gifts for hard-to-buy-for loved ones; negotiating the obligatory family Christmas dinner (a painful experience for many people whose family didn’t quite pop out of a Hallmark card); and wedging get-togethers with colleagues, friends and neighbours into an already overstuffed schedule; many people feel more stressed and miserable at this time of year than at any other.

The rich food served at all these social occasions only adds insult to injury. How so? Well, fascinating research suggests that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a state that the paper’s authors described as ‘flourishing’ – isn’t that a beautiful word? 

Specifically, the study set out to determine if there were any connections between consumption of 4 types of food: fruit, vegetables, sweets, and chips; and feelings and behaviours associated with human flourishing: positive mood, feelings of engagement, meaning, and purpose in life, and curiosity and creativity.

And it turned out that there were. Participants who ate more fruit and vegetables throughout the 13 days of the study reported “higher average eudaemonic well-being [from the Greek word eudaemonia – a contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous], more intense feelings of curiosity, and greater creativity” than those who ate less fresh produce.

Even more fascinating was the finding that on individual days when participants’ consumption of fruits and vegetables was higher, they scored higher on eudaemonic well-being, curiosity, and creativity than on days when they ate less.

This study fits perfectly with others that I’ve discussed in previous posts: Want to feel happier? Change what’s on your plate! and Good Mood Food. Taken together, these studies indicate that a plant-based diet high in fresh produce makes us feel better in every way: not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

And yet the time of year when we would ideally be feeling most connected with others, and with our own deepest values, is traditionally the season of overindulgence in the foods least likely to facilitate these experiences: animal products and refined carbohydrates!

So I’d like to invite you to participate in an experiment this holiday season: make fruit and vegetables the centrepiece of your festive meals, steer clear of the fat- and sugar-laden offerings and the mounds of animal protein, and take note of whether it makes a difference to how well you deal with your relatives, in-laws, out-laws, and all the other challenges that this time of year brings.

Here are my top fruit & veg-based recipes that look great on the Christmas table, and will have even the most conventional eaters asking for more:

Eggplant Hommous

Mitch’s Famous Anti-Cancer Salad

Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms

Mushroom Loaf

Berrylicious Tart

Mango & Coconut Pie

I’d love to hear your feedback if you participate in the Great Fruit & Veg Experiment Christmas Experiment. Comment below!

Would you like expert guidance in developing an eating plan that optimises your emotional well-being? Register for your free one-month trial of my nutrition and health education program, EmpowerEd, and you can join in our live webinar, ‘Surviving the holidays without compromising your health’, or watch the recording afterward, and access hundreds of hours of previous webinar recordings as well as ‘Healthy Eating 101’ which teaches you how to set up your kitchen, shop, plan and batch-cook for low-fuss, wholesome and delicious meals.

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