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Feeling stressed? Add an extra serving of vegetables to your daily diet and you may welcome a renewed sense of calm.
That’s what researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia discovered when they assessed the dietary habits and psychological well-being of more than 60,000 Australians over the age of 45.
“This study shows that moderate daily fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with lower rates of psychological stress,” said Dr. Melody Ding of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.
But the focus here is mainly on the leafy greens and other vegetables. “Moderate daily vegetable intake alone is linked to a lower incidence of psychological stress,” added Ding. “Moderate fruit intake alone appears to confer no significant benefit on people’s psychological stress.”
Overall, the researchers found that people who ate three to four servings of vegetables per day had a 12 percent reduced risk of stress than those who consumed just one serving or none at all.
When adding fruit to the equation, the combination appears to enhance stress-busting results even further — those who ate five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables combined had a 14 percent lower risk of feeling stressed out.
Furthermore, the researchers discovered that the beneficial results of a fruit-and-vegetable diet appear to be supercharged in women. When comparing women only, researchers discovered that eating five to seven servings of vegetables lowered stress risk by nearly a quarter, or 23 percent.
“We found that fruit and vegetables were more protective for women than men, suggesting that women may benefit more from fruit and vegetables,” said Binh Nguyen, first author and University of Sydney doctoral student.
The new study “is among the first to report associations between fruit and vegetable consumption and psychological well-being separately for men and women,” report the researchers in the British Medical Journal Open.
“It is possible that there may be a true physiological difference between men and women, although a mechanism that could explain this difference remains unclear, or perhaps women more accurately report consumption of fruit and vegetables than men,” add the researchers.
Recent studies are increasingly giving due to the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, including a study that shows consuming more fresh produce can improve one’s mood and mental health in short order. Another study found that eating more greens can prevent Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The researchers of the new study postulate that micronutrients found in fresh produce confer essential health benefits.
“Fruit and vegetables are rich in micronutrients and phytochemicals that may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, processes that can have detrimental effects on mental health,” they report. “For example, antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and polyphenols may help reduce oxidative stress while the mineral magnesium has been associated with lower levels of C reactive protein, a marker of low-grade inflammation.”
The researchers add that “deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid (vitamin B9) have been associated with depression. Low levels of these vitamins can cause high homocysteine levels which in turn can impair methylation processes involved in the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters that may affect mood.”