“Ho ho ho!” and “fa la la la la!” No matter what holiday you celebrate, most would say it’s the happiest time of the year. But the holiday cheer doesn’t have to end come January. Two recent studies suggest you can keep the happy spirit alive all year round by loading up your plate with more fruits and vegetables.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the Health Survey for England found that people with the lowest mental well-being were more likely to report lower intakes of fruit and vegetables, while those with the highest mental well-being tended to report eating more of these foods. Another recent study from the University of Queensland found eating fruits and vegetables was positively associated with life satisfaction and overall happiness. Interestingly, the researcher found fruit had a more profound effect on emotional well-being and mental health; in other words, the more fruit people ate, the less depressed and anxious they felt.  Vegetables had a larger impact on self-reported general health: People who ate more vegetables were more likely to say they “feel as healthy as anyone.”

These results come as no surprise. Fruits and vegetables have long been touted for their myriad health benefits, and these are not the first studies to suggest they might improve happiness. Past evidence suggests a dose response correlation between daily portions of fruits and vegetables and mental health, and that even a 3% increase in concentration of certain antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables is associated with great optimism. In one survey, it was shown that physical health was the best single predictor of happiness.

Spread the cheer this holiday season (and all year long) by making fruits and vegetables the stars of your diet. Color half your plate with vegetables at meals (the more, the better!) and choose fresh fruits for snacks and dessert. More matters. Seasons eatings!

Bonus: Healthy eating can make you happy, and happiness can make you healthy! Scientists estimate that 10-15 minutes of laughing over the course of a day could burn up to 40 calories, which can translate to 4 pounds lost over the course of a year.

Published December 1, 2014