Want Less Stress? Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

Diets rich in fruits and vegetables linked to lower stress in adults

(RxWiki News) Feeling stressed out? You might want to take a look at your diet.

That's because a new study has linked eating fruits and vegetables to lower perceived stress in adults.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress has increased over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, many persistent pre-pandemic stressors continue to plague Americans. The APA has referred to stress in the US as a mental health crisis.

"Long-term and unmanaged stress can lead to a range of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety so we need to find ways to prevent and possibly alleviate mental health problems in the future," said lead study author Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University, in a press release.

But findings like those of this new study could provide one more avenue of hope. Diet appears to be at least one stress factor that people can control.

"We found that people who have higher fruit and veggie intakes are less stressed than those with lower intakes, which suggests diet plays a key role in mental wellbeing," Radavelli-Bagatini said.

The study authors examined the diets and stress levels of more than 8,600 Australians who were participating in a national survey. The study participants were between the ages of 25 and 91.

Compared to those who ate less than 230 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, those who ate more than 470 grams reported stress levels that were 10 percent lower on average, this study found.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises eating at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day. US health officials recommend eating between 3.5 and 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. One cup is around 128 grams.

This research did not look at exactly how a healthy diet might reduce stress, but the study authors suggested that key nutrients could play a role.

"Vegetables and fruits contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and therefore improve mental wellbeing," Radavelli-Bagatini said.

If you are dealing with major stress, seek mental health care. Talk to your health care provider before making any major changes to your diet.

This study was published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Information on study funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
May 18, 2021