Simple solution for silencing stress: Eat more fruits and vegetables

JOONDALUP, Australia — A salad a day keeps anxiety away. That’s the takeaway from a new study that reveals a simple tactic to a healthier and happier life. Researchers from Edith Cowan University report that eating more fruits and vegetables can help reduce daily stress.

According to the study of 8,600 Australians between ages 25 and 91, people who eat least 470 grams of fruit and vegetables per day deal with lower levels of stress by 10 percent in comparison to those eating less than 230 grams daily. For what it’s worth, the World Health Organizations recommends at least 400 grams of produce daily.

“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,” says lead researcher and PhD candidate Simone Radavelli-Bagatini from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research in a release.

Stress continues to be a dangerous problem affecting millions worldwide, with rates skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s estimated that one in 10 people residing on planet Earth struggle with stress daily. Of course, some stressful situations are impossible to avoid, but feelings of constant, intense stress will take a serious toll eventually.

“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,” adds Radavelli-Bagatini.

“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,” she continues. “The study’s findings emphasize that it’s important for people to have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables to potentially minimize stress.”

It’s still unclear as to how exactly fruits and vegetables benefits stress levels so much, but researchers speculate it must be linked to the consumption of key nutrients.

“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,” explains Radavelli-Bagatini. “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,” she concludes.

The study is published in Clinical Nutrition.

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