Some stress in our daily lives is normal, and in some cases unavoidable. However, too much stress can have some undesirable consequences on your health. Consistent high levels of stress can lead to weight gain, increased inflammation and even increased risk for chronic illnesses, like heart disease.
Luckily for us, your lifestyle habits can help ease stress in your daily life (check out these foods for stress relief). Specifically, a healthy diet and healthy gut can help relieve the stress and anxiety that comes our way. Scientists in a recent study found that eating more fruits and vegetables can lead to lower stress levels. How much do you need to nosh on to reap the benefit? We dove into the research and what it means for you.
A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition looked at data from nearly 9,000 people in Australia to see how fruit and veg intake related to perceived stress levels. Participants in the study had an average age of 47 years and about 50% identified as female. The researchers used questionnaires to determine produce intake and perceived stress levels.
The group with the highest fruit and vegetable intake (470 grams, or about six servings) had 10% lower perceived stress levels than those who ate 230 grams (three servings) of fruit and vegetables or less. For reference, the WHO recommends people consume at least 400 grams, or five servings, of fruits and vegetables each day. MyPlate, from the USDA, considers one serving of fruit to equal one cup of fruit or fruit juice, as well as ½ cup of dried fruit. One serving of vegetables is one cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or two cups of raw leafy greens.
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Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, nutrients, minerals and antioxidants that can help quell inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. When we get enough of them in our day, it can improve everything from our mood to our longevity. We all experience stress in different ways and at different times, but being consistent with a nutritious diet that includes ample fruits and vegetables is a great way to help keep it in check.
Don't stress about adding more produce to your diet. There are many ways to increase the amount of vegetables in your day, like choosing frozen or canned and preparing produce-forward snacks ahead of time for easy access. Also try adding them to foods you already eat, like adding veggies to an egg scramble or to pasta, or choosing fruit for dessert. For more creative ways to eat more vegetables, check out our Eat More Vegetables Challenge.