Posted on May 19, 2021, 7 a.m.
Studies suggest that eating fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce stress, along with helping to boost the immune system.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU), eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is associated with less stress. The study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition examined the link between fruit and vegetable intake and stress levels of more than 8,600 Australians aged between 25 and 91 participating in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study from Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.
The findings revealed people who ate at least 470 grams of fruit and vegetables daily had 10 percent lower stress levels than those who consumed less than 230 grams. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day.
Lead researcher, Ph.D. candidate Simone Radavelli-Bagatini from ECU's Institute for Nutrition Research, said the study strengthens the link between diets rich in fruit and vegetables and mental wellbeing:
"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 wellbeing," said Radavelli-Bagatini.
Mental health conditions are an increasing problem in Australia and around the world. Around one in two Australians will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. Globally, approximately 1 in 10 people live with a mental health disorder.
According to Radavelli-Bagatini, some stress is considered normal, but long-term exposure can significantly impact mental health.
"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," she said.
The benefits of a healthy diet are well known, but only 1 in 2 Australians eat the recommended two serves of fruit per day and fewer than 1 in 10 eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day.
"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," Radavelli-Bagatini said.
"The study's findings emphasise that it's important for people to have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables to potentially minimise stress."
While the mechanisms behind how fruit and vegetable consumption influence stress is still unclear, Radavelli-Bagatini said key nutrients could be a factor.
"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," she said.
"Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are recognised factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood."
"These findings encourage more research into diet and specifically what fruits and vegetables provide the most benefits for mental health."
The research is part of ECU's recently launched Institute for Nutrition Research, which aims to investigate how nutrition can help prevent and treat chronic health conditions.
'Fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with perceived stress across the adult lifespan' was published in Clinical Nutrition.
Build Your Immunity
A healthy body and strong immunity can considerably increase your chances of tackling the virus and a healthy diet lays the foundation for it.
Eating healthy is very important during and after this pandemic. What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections. While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting the immune systems. Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer and combatting comorbidities.
Eat A Variety Of Food, Including Fruits And Vegetables
Your body needs a plethora of nutrients and micronutrients. A wide variety of foods will help create a balanced diet that your body needs.
- Every day, eat a mix of whole grains like wheat, maize, and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, with some foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, and milk).
- Choose whole-grain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, and brown rice when you can; they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.
Limit Sugar Intake
Sugar is one of the leading causes of obesity and can lead to diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation, etc. It can also increase the risk of cancer. It is important to monitor and moderate your sugar intake to ensure continued health.
- Limit intake of sweets and sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices, and juice drinks, liquid and powder concentrates, flavoured water, energy, and sports drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee, and flavoured milk drinks.
- Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes, and chocolate. When other dessert options are chosen, ensure that they are low in sugar and consume small portions.
- Avoid giving sugary foods to children. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods given to children under 2 years of age, and should be limited beyond that age.
Cut Back On Salt
Salt, while an essential nutrient for your body, needs to be moderated. Too much salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure and consecutively heart failure, heart attack, kidney problems, fluid retention, stroke, and osteoporosis.
- Limit salt intake to 5 grams (equivalent to a teaspoon) a day.
- When cooking and preparing foods, use salt sparingly and reduce the use of salty sauces and condiments (like soy sauce, stock, or fish sauce).
- If using canned or dried food, choose varieties of vegetables, nuts, and fruit, without added salt and sugars.
Drink enough water. Good hydration is crucial for optimal health. Drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages is a simple way to limit your intake of sugar and excess calories.
Eat Moderate Amounts Of Fats And Oils
Fats, contrary to popular belief aren’t all bad. Too much fat can cause multiple health issues like obesity, heart disease, fatty liver, etc. But the body needs a small amount of healthy fats to ensure proper nutrition.
- Replace butter and excessive ghee with healthier fats like olive, soy, or corn oil when cooking.
- Choose white meats like poultry and fish which are generally lower in fats than red meat; and limit the consumption of processed meats.
- Select low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products.
- Avoid processed, baked, and fried foods that contain industrially produced trans-fat.
- Try steaming or boiling instead of frying food when cooking.
Avoid Hazardous And Harmful Alcohol Use
Alcohol is not a part of a healthy diet. Drinking alcohol does not protect against COVID-19 and can be dangerous. Frequent or excessive alcohol consumption increases your immediate risk of injury, as well as causing longer-term effects like liver damage, cancer, heart disease, and mental illness.
This article was published on TimesofIndia and written by Dr. Shilpi Kulshrenshtha, Head Clinical Services at Antara, specializing in senior care.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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