Food for your mood: High intake of fruits and vegetables linked with less stress, study reveals
18 May 2021 --- An Edith Cowan University (ECU) study has found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with stress levels 10 percent lower than diets with low intake.
The study “solidifies the link” between mental well-being and diets rich in fruits and vegetables, asserts Simone Radavelli-Bagatini, lead researcher and PhD candidate from ECU Institute for Nutrition Research.
“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 well-being.”
ECU researchers observed the relation between fruit and vegetable intake and stress levels in 8,600 Australians aged between 25 and 91 years old. The participants were in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.
The data shows that people who ate 470 g of fruit and vegetables daily had 10 percent lower stress levels as compared to those who consumed less than 230 g.
Mood is a growing concern
As mental health conditions increase globally, there has been a higher demand for holistic nutrition. In Australia, one in every two persons will experience a mental health issue in their lifespan. One in ten people globally live with a mental health disorder.
There is a rising correlation between stress and long-term health conditions, Radavelli-Bagatini notes.
“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.”
Although it is unclear which mechanisms are behind the influence of fruits and vegetables on stress, the findings suggest it could be antioxidants present in the food that elevate mood.
“Vegetables and fruits contain important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and therefore improve mental well-being,” she says.
“Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are recognized factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood.”
A growing issue
The link between food and mental health is not a new concern. This is highlighted in one of Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2021, “Mood: The Next Occasion.”
The market researcher reveals that 44 percent of global consumers have taken steps to improve their mental and emotional well-being.
Aramark collaborated with the American Heart Association (AHA) to discover people’s eating habits in the workplace in a previous study. The study found that stress and food choice were related. People who were stressed tended to eat unhealthy meals as they were more convenient.
There has been an increase in consumers’ holistic approach to health due to the global pandemic. Recently, Vitafoods Insights Virtual Exposition revealed there had been a shift from a focus on physical health and nutrition to greater attention to mental health.
Industry has been responding to these demands, most recently with Eat Beyond Global Holdings investing in an adaptogenic drink called Daydream.
By Nicole Kerr
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