According to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU), a diet rich in vegetables is linked to lower stress levels.
The Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study, conducted by Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, looked at the connection between fruit and vegetable intake and stress levels in more than 8,600 Australians aged 25 to 91.
The findings revealed that people who ate at least 470 grams of fruits and vegetables per day had 10 percent lower stress levels than those who ate less than 230 grams. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that you consume at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables every day.
According to Ph.D. candidate Ms. Simone Radavelli-Bagatini from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research the study strengthens the association between a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and mental wellbeing.
“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,” Ms. Radavelli-Bagatini added.
A growing problem
Mental health issues are becoming more prevalent all around the world. Approximately one out of every ten people in the world suffer from a mental illness.
According to Ms. Radavelli-Bagatini, some stress is normal, but long-term exposure can have a negative influence on mental health.
Ms. Radavelli-Bagatini pointed out that “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.”
The benefits of a balanced diet are widely established, but only one out of every two Australians consumes the minimum two servings of fruit per day, and fewer than one out of every ten eats the necessary five servings of vegetables each day.
Ms. Radavelli-Bagatini remarked that “previous studies have shown the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and stress in younger adults, but this is the first time we’re seeing similar results across adults of all ages.”
“The study’s findings emphasize that it’s important for people to have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables to potentially minimize stress.”
Food and the state of mind
While the mechanisms underlying how fruits and vegetables affect stress remain unknown, Ms. Radavelli-Bagatini believes certain nutrients may play a role.
The researcher said that “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.”
Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are known to cause increased stress, anxiety, and lower mood.
“More research into diet, specifically what fruits and vegetables provide the most mental health advantages, is encouraged by these findings,” the researcher said.
The study is part of ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research, which strives to learn more about how nutrition can help prevent and manage chronic diseases.