It is well known that eating fruits and vegetables is essential for healthy life and wellbeing. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults should consume at least 400 grams of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday. In reality, however, despite the benefits associated with consuming the recommended amount, very few people actually do so!
A recent Australian study found that eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables not only improves overall physical and mental wellbeing, but also lowers stress levels. This study, which investigated over 8,500 people, found that those who consumed 470 grams of fruits and vegetables every day, had significantly reduced their stress levels by 10%, compared to people who only consumed 230 daily grams. This suggests that higher fruit and veg intake is associated with lower stress levels, and that a healthy diet plays a sizeable part in improving one’s mental wellbeing.
While stress is inevitable during our lifetime; longer exposure to stress can severely affect our brains. Previous studies have shown that long-term exposure to stress contributes to reduced brain volume, especially in regions within the frontal cortex and the amygdala that play a role in psychological stress and emotional response. PhD candidate, and lead researcher of the study Simone Radavelli-Bagatini explains that, “long-term and unmanaged stress can lead to a range of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety”.
The study, the largest to date, provides legitimacy to the existing gut-brain axis theory, which finds that there is a clear association between gut and brain health. Although the exact manner in which fruits and vegetables help in reducing stress is not fully understood, Radavelli-Bagatini explains that, “vegetables and fruits contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.” She further adds, “Inflammation and oxidative stress are recognised factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood, and therefore reducing these improves mental wellbeing”.
With more people reporting feeling stressed, and with mental health conditions on the rise worldwide, this study is important as it sheds light on a potential solution we can all implement at home – eat your fruit and veg.
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. Fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with perceived stress across the adult lifespan. Clinical Nutrition, 2021; 40 (5).
Featured picture: Pexel
Edited by Malavika