Eating vegetables reduces stress

EATING vegetables reduces stress – especially among women. That’s the positive finding of some new research I’ve been reading about in the British Medical Journal Open. This is great news because it’s not widely known that stress is one of the reasons many people can find it hard to lose weight, as I explain in my free ebook on the subject (scroll down for a link).

The new study, carried out by researchers in Australia, suggests that eating more fruit and vegetables every day can help ease depression, stress and anxiety.

This was a big piece of investigative work: the researchers looked at the diets of 60,000 Australians aged 45 and over. They found that that just three to four servings of vegetables or fruit a day, compared to those who just ate one serving, may help lower psychological stress by 12 per cent.

eating vegetables reduces stress

People in the study who ate five to seven portions a day reduced stress by 14 per cent, according to the study’s authors. They measured stress levels using a 10-part questionnaire which focused on feelings of anxiety and depression and interestingly the research uncovered a difference between men and women when they considered if eating vegetables reduces stress.

The University of Sydney co-author Binh Nguyen said: “We found that fruit and vegetables were more protective for women than men.” Women who ate five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduced stress levels by 23 per cent compared to women who consumed zero to one portions a day. Women who ate just two portions had a 16 per cent lower risk of stress.

The authors cautiously add that there needs to be more investigations in to the link between fruit and vegetable consumption before any definite conclusions can be made that eating vegetables reduces stress.

“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.”


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The UK mental health charity Mind commented: “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 singled out tomatoes, mushrooms and bananas – which all contain high levels of potassium, a mineral which is essential for the whole nervous system, including the brain.” Mind also suggested eating raw fruit and vegetables, where possible, to get the highest number of nutrients.

Since we know that almost all weight problems are directly linked to our brains then it makes sense to pump in as much goodness as possible every day. Making healthier choices is the key to successful long-term weight loss.

More serious addictions and depression might need professional help and should not be ignored.

I’d love to know how many servings of fruit and veg you have every day. What are your favourites and why? Please leave a comment below because your advice will be invaluable for others.


14 thoughts on “Eating vegetables reduces stress”

  1. I hadn’t thought about this before. I try to eat at least 4 portions daily – I’m presently making broccoli soup! I love to see a colourful salad – fruit or veg. I did notice when I stayed with some relatives, who rarely eat fruit and certainly don’t eat enough veg, that I felt a bit sluggish and irritable but I didn’t associate the feelings with lack of fruit or veg – maybe I will now. I’ll make sure to take some fruit when I next visit. Very interesting blog. Thanks.

  2. I would be very interested to see if the people with decreased stress where also thinner – women put a lot of pressure on themselves to be thin and being successful in this endeavour (i.e. Having a higher proportion of fruits and veggies in the diet and less fatening foods) could reasonably lead to lower psychological stress. Another way to investigate this qualitatively would be to interview these women about body image. I would not be surprised in the least if the variable relates to well being was improved body image.

  3. First of all it has been proved that most fruit and veg unless organic contain less and less nutrients which of course is not to say that we shouldn’t eat any. Personally I eat at least 2 to 3 fruits per day and a minimum of 6 veg half of them raw. Seriously stressed due to work and personal issues i doubt that increasing further my intake of fruit and veg would reduce my stress level….?

  4. I love fruits and vegetables!! However, I know that on days when I am hurried (or stressed) I don’t make the time to prepare them and there-for eat less. I can’t help but wonder if some of the stress reduction not only comes from the eating of the vegetables & fruit, but in the act of choosing, washing, cutting and preparing them for consumption. A process that I find to be enjoyable and relaxing.

  5. As a psychologist, I’d be interested to know what other factors were controlled for or evaluated in the study, as it’s always possible that those who eat more fruit and veg are less stressed than those who don’t for lots of other reasons e.g. consumption could be linked to socioeconomic status, levels of education, employment, freedom of choice etc. Plus the causal direction isn’t clear – people who are less stressed may have more time to meal plan and prepare food and therefore eat more fruit and veg.

  6. Very interesting article, Sandra. I absolutely love vegetables and usually eat at least 4 portions per day. My favourites at the moment are swede, parsnip and carrot mashed together with a little butter and pepper. I have prunes or apricots with porridge in the morning or a fruit and spinach smoothie with yogurt. I truly believe that part of the reason for cravings is that the body is missing an ingredient to work properly; it just can’t tell you which ingredient and so you’re driven to eating to try to find it!

  7. I wonder if anyone has this problem, but I absolutely hate most vegetables and very limited also to the fruit that I eat, same problem ! It’s no use in saying just eat them, or try them, have done that and still cannot stomach them. What am I to do then? I’m 56 years old and not going to change at this stage of my life. Diets all my life have posed a huge problem.

  8. I tend to eat 2 portions of fruit and 2 portions of vegetables per day if you count salad. I think they make you feel full, so I suppose if you don’t feel hungry you are less likely to feel stressed!

  9. Hi I love fruit and and veg so I eat a lot. Mainly one Banana a day, blackberries and raspberries. Vegetables I always a portion at lunch and a portion at night. I can’t eat to much as I have IBS which is quiet dibilating so I can’t eat too much. I wish there was a cure for that my weight fluctuates so much depending on how swollen my tummy is

  10. Hi Sandra
    Very interesting research and a respected journal.. I try to eat fruit and veg at every meal including breakfast and across every colour. I’m not a fan of smoothies but eat lots of veggie soups. Mushrooms instead of toast at breakfast is a good substitute.

  11. Very interesting article. I’ve been suffering from depression and so I decided to take out sugar from my diet and most things processed. To fill the gap I starting eating more fruit and tons of veggies. After a week of cravings and tbh feeling not so good I started to feel better . My intake of veg is about 5 portions .. my fruit around 3 sometimes more if I’m home and bored ?.

  12. I agree that since having more fruit & veg I definitely feel better and have not had any lows I favourites are bananas apples tomatoes, broccoli kale spinach and berries although

  13. Maria sandiford

    I find it true the more fruit and veg I eat the better I feel and the more energy I have leading to a chicken and egg scenario ,exercise leads to eating healthier, eating healthier leads to exercise.

  14. I normally eat a lot of veg and salad but for the last 5 weeks have been in residential care due to a broken leg. Very little veg is available in the meals and my body and mood definitely have suffered . Can’t wait to get home to loads of veg agaib

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About Sandra
Founder of Thinking Slimmer
Food addiction expert
Member of All-Party Parliamentary Obesity Group
Huffington Post contributor
DipCHyp HPD NLP MasterPrac
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