Sydney, Mar 17: We all know that fruit and vegetables are packed with healthy vitamins and nutrients, which is why we’re advised to aim for at least five portions a day – or 10 if the recommendations from February are anything to go by.
You might want to up your intake to the latter if there’s any truth to a new study that suggests eating more fruit and veggies may help ease depression, stress and anxiety.
Researchers looked at the diets of 60,000 Australians aged 45+, all of which were a part of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study of over 260,000 adults. They discovered that just 3-4 servings of vegetables or fruits a day, compared to those who just munched on one serving, may help lower psychological stress by 12%. Those who consumed 5-7 reduced stress by 14%, report the study authors.
The scientists measured stress levels using a 10-item questionnaire, which focused on anxiety and depression, at two points: 2006-2008 and 2010. Interestingly, the research flagged up difference between the sexes. Study co-author and University of Sydney Ph.D student, Binh Nguyen explained:
“We found that fruit and vegetables were more protective for women than men, suggesting that women may benefit more from fruit and vegetables.”
Women who ate 5-7 portions of fruit and veg reduced stress levels by 23%, compared to women who consumed 0-1 portions a day. Women who ate just two portions had a 16% lower risk of stress.
The authors add that there needs to be more investigations in to the link between fruit and vegetable consumption before any conclusions can be made.
“Fruit and vegetable consumption may help reduce the prevalence of psychological distress among middle-aged and older adults. However, the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and the incidence of psychological distress requires further investigation and possibly, a longer follow-up time.”
According to the mental health charity Mind:
“Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients – several portions of the same type of food won’t be so good for you.”
They specifically mention tomatoes, mushrooms and bananas, which all contain high levels of potassium – a mineral “essential for your whole nervous system, including your brain.” The charity also suggest eating raw fruit and vegetables, where possible, to get the highest number of nutrients.