Eating fruit and vegetables helps to relieve stress, researchers have found.
Edith Cowen University scientists say they tested 8,600 Australians and found that those who consumed 470 grams – or five servings – of fruit and vegetables daily were 10 per cent less stressed.
ECU nutritionist, Simone Radavelli-Bagatini said the researchers measured inflammation and oxidated stress levels on adults aged between 25 and 91 years and found that those who ate just three servings of fruit and vegetables were more stressed.
“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,” Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said.
“We found that people who have higher fruit and vegetable intakes are less stressed than those with lower intakes, which suggests diet plays a key role in mental wellbeing.”
She said the link between fruit and vegetables and mental wellbeing was strong.
The scientists said that while previous studies have seen similar results, this is the first time the effect has been produced across adults of all ages.
Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said that fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients that help relieve stress.
“Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are recognised factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood,” Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said.
Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said that the inflammation and oxidated stress is controlled by the nutrient intake.
A previously published study in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatric Clinics of North America found that inflammation is a sign of stress because high fat intakes impact stress hormones.
Nutritional advice website MyDoc dietician Claudia Correia said that the research backs what is already known about diet and mental health, but that implementing societal change is very difficult.
“The data shown is very prevalent in regards that 470 grams of fruit and vegetables isn’t a lot, but the benefits are humungous for dealing with mental health, especially stress,” Ms Correia said.
“It has definitely shown to reduce inflammation but overall what needs to be talked about is the benefits of gut health and what that can do for the human body that resolves stress and mental health as a whole.”
A previously published study Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences has shown that gut bacteria may contribute to depressive symptoms.
“These findings encourage more research into diet and specifically what fruits and vegetables provide the most benefits for mental health,” Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said.
Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said that a fruit and vegetable rich diet could potentially help prevent mental health conditions.