Eating This One Type of Food May Lower Your Stress, New Study Says
Between lockdowns, COVID fears, and feelings of isolation, the past year has been an undeniably stressful one for many people. While the approaching return to some semblance of normalcy may be helpful when it comes to boosting your overall well-being, there's yet another way to potentially alleviate some of that lingering stress in the future: eating more of one particular food group.
According to a new study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, consuming more fruits and vegetables may help reduce stress. To conduct the study, researchers at Australia's Edith Cowan University reviewed results of the 1999-2000 Food Frequency Questionnaire, in which 8,689 Australian men and women with a mean age of 47.4 were asked about their dietary habits, as well as a Perceived Stress Questionnaire. The level of carotenoids—pigments commonly found in yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables—in 1,187 study subjects' blood was also assessed.
What researchers found was that individuals who reported eating the most fruits and vegetables had perceived stress scores that were 10% lower than individuals who ate the least fruits and vegetables. (Related: 22 Best and Worst Foods for Stress)
"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," lead researcher Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Nutrition Research at Edith Cowan University, said in a statement.
"The study's findings emphasize that it's important for people to have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables to potentially minimize stress."
Radavelli-Bagatini explained that many of the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables have been linked to lower levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are "recognized factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood," she explained.
While the study may be among the first to find links between fruit and vegetable consumption and lower stress levels among older adults, the negative impact of low fruit and vegetable consumption on mental health is well-established.
A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that, among an adult population in Canada, low fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with an increased risk of anxiety; a 2019 study published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition found that rates of depression and fruit and vegetable intake were inversely related.
So, while mental health issues may be complex—and not likely solved over the course of a single meal—if you're hoping to improve your overall wellbeing, making a few healthy additions to your diet by way of fruits and vegetables certainly can't hurt.
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