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Eating more fruits and vegetables linked to less stress, study finds

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Stress is an inseparable part of our daily life, and stress affects millions of people worldwide. Recently there was an upward surge in several stress-related diseases in the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently several researchers have focused their studies on finding the causes of stress, stress-related disorders, and the easy solutions to de-stress. Scientific studies proved that some wrong or stressful events accumulate over time and stay in our brain and body, affecting our health throughout life.

Similarly, scientists have undertaken studies to find a healthy and valuable solution to reduce daily stress. Amongst the various lifestyle modifications to control stress, eating more fruits and vegetables has been a commonly suggested way.

With the help of some studies, we will establish a relationship between eating more fruits and vegetables to reduce stress levels.


What is the link between eating more fruits and vegetables and stress?

Several factors in our day-to-day life increase the oxidative stress in our body, resulting in different health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and mental and metabolic disorders. The inclusion of healthy eating habits is one way to reduce stress. Among the other diets recommended, fruits and vegetables are essential constituents in reducing stress. In 2017, The World Health Organization (WHO) attributed approximately 3.9 million deaths to inadequate fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetable consumption above 400g/day.

Fruits and vegetables are powerhouses of more than 5000 dietary phytochemicals. These phytochemicals belong to the chemical class of carotenoids, polyphenols, alkaloids, and many more, with good antioxidant potential.

A study carried in Australian adults suggests that those adults who consumed a more significant number of fruits and vegetables had lower stress levels. The intake of more than 473 g/day of fruits and vegetables was associated with less stress than those adults whose intake was lower than 243 g/day.

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What are the possible mechanisms of managing stress with a higher intake of fruits and vegetables?

Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytoconstituents. These chemicals fight the oxidative stress that is the root cause of most diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and aging, as seen in fig 1.

Figure 1: Relation between dietary phytoconstituent and oxidative stress and diseases.

(Source: Guan R, Van Le Q, Yang H, Zhang D, Gu H, Yang Y, Sonne C, Lam SS, Zhong J, Jianguang Z, Liu R, Peng W. A review of dietary phytochemicals and their relation to oxidative stress and human diseases. Chemosphere. 2021 May;271:129499. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.129499.)

The following are a few possible mechanisms that show how eating more fruits and vegetables can be linked to less stress:

  • Antioxidants are free radical scavengers, and oxidative stress is the primary metabolic pathway of free radicals that leads to several diseases. Fruits and vegetables contain these antioxidants that quench the free radicals and chelate metal ions, arresting the oxidation process.
  • In several cardiovascular diseases, there is excess production of nitric oxide that results from oxidative stress. The phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables accelerate the process of nitric oxide inactivation and play an essential role in reducing inflammation in the cardiovascular diseases that arise due to excess stress.
  • Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has been linked with low incidences of depression compared to lesser consumption.
  • Including higher quantities of fruits and vegetables in daily diet helps control weight and reduce obesity. As a result, the diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart problems that arise due to excess body weight can be kept at bay. All these diseases progress due to oxidative stress, and studies have shown that the phytoconstituents from fruits and vegetables significantly reduce



Studies prove that a higher daily intake of fruits and vegetables is related to lower stress. Although there are examples of reduced cardiovascular diseases risk, reduced chances of depression, and overall reduction in stress levels due to greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, further clinical trials will help prove this concept in detail.


Sources referred:

Slavich GM. Life Stress and Health: A Review of Conceptual Issues and Recent Findings. Teach Psychol. 2016 Oct;43(4):346-355. doi: 10.1177/0098628316662768. Epub 2016 Aug 16.

Guan R, Van Le Q, Yang H, Zhang D, Gu H, Yang Y, Sonne C, Lam SS, Zhong J, Jianguang Z, Liu R, Peng W. A review of dietary phytochemicals and their relation to oxidative stress and human diseases. Chemosphere. 2021 May;271:129499. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.129499.

Lapuente M, Estruch R, Shahbaz M, Casas R. Relation of Fruits and Vegetables with Major Cardiometabolic Risk Factors, Markers of Oxidation, and Inflammation. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 6;11(10):2381. doi: 10.3390/nu11102381.

El Ansari W, Adetunji H, Oskrochi R. Food and mental health: relationship between food and perceived stress and depressive symptoms among university students in the United Kingdom. Cent Eur J Public Health. 2014 Jun;22(2):90-7. doi: 10.21101/cejph.a3941.