Lower Your Stress with More Fruits and Veggies?

What’s New in Psychology?

Lower Your Stress with More Fruits and Veggies?

Jim Windell

           Recent survey results from the American Psychological Association reveals that Americans have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, all of the other external factors APA listed in previous years as significant sources of stress remain present and problematic. This compounding of stressors seriously affects our minds and our bodies.

           As a consequence of these survey findings, the APA has sounded an alarm: Adults in the U.S. are facing a national mental health crisis that could have serious health and social consequences for years into the future.

           Among the consequences of ongoing stress are such health problems as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, along with depression.

           But researchers at Edith Cowan University in Australia may have found a way for people to reduce their stress.  

           Studying 8,600 Australians who were between 25 and 91 years of age in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle from a Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute study, the findings revealed that people who ate at least 470 grams of fruit and vegetables daily had 10 per cent lower stress levels than those who consumed less than 230 grams.

           The World Health Organization recommends eating at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day.

           Although fruits and vegetables have been linked to other health benefits, lead researcher, Ph.D. candidate Simone Radavelli-Bagatini from Edith Cowan University’s Institute for Nutrition Research, said the study strengthens the link between diets rich in fruit 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," said Ms Radavelli-Bagatini.

           "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," Radavelli-Bagatini said.

           She went on to say 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."

           Although the exact mechanism behind how fruit and vegetable consumption influences stress are still unclear, Radavelli-Bagatini said 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," she said. "Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are recognized factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood."

           Despite not knowing how fruits and vegetables help us experience less stress, the bottom line is clear: Eat your fruits and veggies every day.

           To read the original journal article, find it with this reference:

Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, Lauren C. Blekkenhorst, Marc Sim, Richard L. Prince, Nicola P. Bondonno, Catherine P. Bondonno, Richard Woodman, Reindolf Anokye, James Dimmock, Ben Jackson, Leesa Costello, Amanda Devine, Mandy J. Stanley, Joanne M. Dickson, Dianna J. Magliano, Jonathan E. Shaw, Robin M. Daly, Jonathan M. Hodgson, & Joshua R. Lewis. (2021). Fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with perceived stress across the adult lifespan. Clinical Nutrition, 40 (5): 2860 DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2021.03.043


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