The Answer to Beating Stress Might Be in Your Crisper

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Sources of stress are everywhere around us. For some, it’s their workload or just life’s responsibilities. For others, it’s not being able to pick the best boozy brunch spot for the weekend. They are all valid.

But a new study has found a way to eat your way out of the psychological pressure. Scientists from the University of Sydney in Australia have found eating three to four servings of veggies a day can significantly lower psychological stress levels. (Which is seemingly counterintuitive, considering the notion of having to eat more vegetables is stress-inducing to many.)

After studying more than 60,000 Australians aged 45 and older during two intervals — once from 2006 to 2008 and again in 2010 — the scientists were able to monitor the subjects’ fruit and veggie consumption. The study, published in the British medical journal Open, found that those who consumed three to four servings of vegetables a day had 12 percent lower stress levels than those who ate zero to one serving daily. And those who ate five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily had 14 percent lower stress levels than those who ate little to no servings.

(Image credit: Rachel Korinek)

“We found that fruit and vegetables were more protective for women than men, suggesting that women may benefit more from fruit and vegetables,” says Binh Nguyen, a PhD student at the University of Sydney and the study’s lead author.

This effect was seen on a greater scale in women. According to the American Psychological Association, women are typically more stressed than men.

Female participants who ate just two servings of fruit had 16 percent lower stress levels than those who ate zero to one serving a day, and if they consumed three to four servings of veggies, their risk of stress was 18 percent lower. And those who ate anywhere from five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits had 23 percent lower stress levels than their peers who ate zero to one serving a day.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Particularly interesting is the difference between vegetable intake and fruit intake. Specifically, eating vegetables was linked to lower stress, while eating fruits alone did not see such an association.

“It also reveals that moderate daily vegetable intake alone is linked to a lower incidence of psychological stress,” Dr. Melody Ding, of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, says in a statement. “Moderate fruit intake alone appears to confer no significant benefit on people’s psychological stress.”

That’s not to say simply adding vegetables to your diet will eliminate all your stress, but it’s certainly one of several factors you can control in alleviating your stress levels.