Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is associated with less stress, according to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU).
The study examined the link between fruit and vegetable intake and stress levels of more than 8,600 Australians aged between 25 and 91 participating in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study from Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.
The findings revealed people who ate at least 16 ounces of fruit and vegetables daily had 10 per cent lower stress levels than those who consumed less than 8 ounces. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least 12 ounces of fruit and vegetables per day. 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 according to researcher Ms Radavelli-Bagatini.
A growing issue
Mental health conditions are an increasing problem around the world. Globally, approximately 1 in 10 people live with a mental health disorder. According to Ms Radavelli-Bagatini, some stress is considered normal, but long-term exposure can significantly impact mental health.
Long-term and unmanaged stress can lead to a range of health problems including heart disease, suppressed immunity, 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 healthy diet are well known, but only 1 in 2 people eat the recommended two serves of fruit per day and fewer than 1 in 10 eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day.
Food and mood
While the mechanisms behind how fruit and vegetable consumption influences stress are still unclear key nutrients could be a factor. 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 recognized factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood. These findings encourage more research into diet and specifically what fruits and vegetables provide the most benefits for mental health. The research is part of a recently launched Institute for Nutrition Research, which aims to investigate how nutrition can help prevent and treat chronic health conditions.