Stressed out people are being told they should eat more fruit and vegetables after a new study has shown a healthy diet reduces stress.

A team from the Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia has carried out a study which has found a direct link between a high intake of fruit and veg and reduced stress levels.

The research involved 8,600 people who were aged between 25 and 91 and had already signed up to take part in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

Those who ate a decent amount (470g) of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis enjoyed 10 per cent reduced stress levels than those who consumed less than that.

Guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests people should be eating at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day.

Lead researcher, PhD student Simone Radavelli-Bagatini from ECU’s Institute for Nutrition Research, said:  “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.

“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 previous research has identified an association between a healthy diet and stress levels among young adults, Ms Radavelli-Bagatini said “this is the first time we’re seeing similar results across adults of all ages this is the first time”.

She added: “The study’s findings emphasise that it’s important for people to have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables to potentially minimise stress.

“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.

“Inflammation and oxidative stress in the body are recognised factors that can lead to increased stress, anxiety and lower mood.”

The study findings have been published in the Clinical Nutrition journal.

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