Stress is part of living, but sometimes life throws us curve balls more often than we would like or perhaps too often for us to handle well. Stress management techniques can help us cope, but so can treating yourself with fruits and vegetables. Eating more produce every day can lower your stress level, according to a new study.
Stress is a worldwide problem affecting about one in 10 people on a daily basis, and it has been particularly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we all experience some degree of stress at times, when it becomes intense or constant it can take a toll on the body and lead to a variety of mental and physical health problems.
Australian researchers at Edith Cowan University studied the diets of over 8,500 people aged 25 to 91 using a food frequency questionnaire to assess their intake of fruits and vegetables. Their self-perceived stress levels were also determined with the Perceived Stress Questionnaire.
People who ate at least 16 ounces — two cups — of fruits and vegetables a day reported 10 percent lower levels of stress compared to those who ate less than eight ounces or one cup a day. This was true particularly for middle-age adults.
Other studies have found an association between eating fruits and vegetables and stress in younger people, but this is the first study to find a link in adults of all ages.
How fruits and vegetables improve stress levels is not fully understood, but it may be due to the key nutrients and phytochemicals found in them.
“Vegetables and fruits contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids that can reduce inflammation, and oxidative stressand therefore improve mental wellbeing,” researcher, Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, explained in a statement. “Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are recognized factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood.”
Unmanaged, long-term stress can cause chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, so finding ways to prevent stress from getting out of hand can help you avoid future health problems.
The study is published in Clinical Nutrition.