Lower Anxiety With Fruits And Vegetables

Lower Anxiety With Fruits And Vegetables

Studies have consistently found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has many benefits, including protection against certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions. Now, a study by researchers at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) in British Columbia, Canada, suggests that not eating enough fruits and vegetables every day can lead to anxiety disorders.

“It’s well established that fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with physical health, and this study adds to increasing evidence that shows there are also links with mental health,” Karen Davison, the study’s leader and a health science faculty member at KPU, told Runner’s World.

The research team analyzed data from 26,991 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 who were involved in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. The analysis included assessing the rate of anxiety disorders and comparing it to income, gender, relationship status, chronic pain and multiple health conditions, smoking, alcohol use, fruit and vegetable intake, and even pastry consumption. The 2020 study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

“For those who consumed less than three sources of fruits and vegetables daily, there was at least a 24 percent higher odds of anxiety disorder diagnosis,” Davison said in a news release.

In addition to the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and anxiety, the team also discovered an association between body fat and anxiety risks. According to the study, as the levels of a participant’s total body fat increased past 36 percent, the likelihood of anxiety disorder increased by more than 70 percent.

“Increased body fat may be linked to greater inflammation,” Davison said. “Emerging research suggests that some anxiety disorders can be linked to inflammation.”

How Much Fruits And Vegetables Should You Eat Daily?

Fruits and vegetables have long been promoted by health experts and nutritionists in the United States as excellent sources of vitamins and minerals that are essential to the body. But according to statistics from the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the vast majority of U.S. residents are not particularly fond of vegetables.

The reported stated that almost 90 percent of the U.S. population does not meet the daily recommendations for vegetables. In addition, with few exceptions, the U.S. population also does not meet intake recommendations for any of the vegetable subgroups of dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; and starchy. When it comes to fruits, 80 percent of the U.S. population does not meet the recommendation, the report said.

The guidelines recommend adults eat 1.5-2 cup-equivalents of fruits and 2-3 cup-equivalents of vegetables every day. To encourage healthy eating patterns, the 2020-2025 report highlights four primary guidelines:

  • Eat healthfully at every stage of life. From childhood to adulthood, follow a healthy dietary pattern to meet nutritional needs, a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  • Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages that provide vitamins, minerals, and other healthy components that reflect your personal preferences and budget.
  • Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits. Food groups include vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods.
  • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.

According to the guidelines, a healthy diet supports the immune system, helps to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has also weighed in on the benefits of fruits and vegetables and recommends getting four to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. According to the AHA, one serving of fruit means:

  • One medium fruit (about the size of a fist)
  • One-half cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
  • One-quarter cup of dried fruit

One serving of vegetables means:

  • One cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • One-half cup of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
  • One-half cup of vegetable juice

The AHA recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables in order to meet the recommended servings each day.

Nutritionists have encouraged adults and children to “eat the rainbow,” which means having a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables that provide essential vitamins and nutrients the body needs.

Davison said it’s not fully known why the “eat the rainbow” strategy has an affect on mental heath. But specific nutrients like carotenoids, potassium, fiber, vitamins, and polyphenols, have all been associated with good mental health. “There may also be a reverse mechanism at play here, where lower levels of anxiety may promote a better diet,” Davison told Runner’s World.

Lowering Anxiety Through Exercise

Besides eating more vegetables and fruits, supplementing diet with exercise is another well-researched method for reducing anxiety. Many studies have associated exercise with lower levels of anxiety and sadness in people who have specific chronic health conditions and those who experience anxiety in general.

For instance, a 2019 study in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences found that participants felt less anxious when they did more physical activity.
Additionally, a 2018 study with 1.2 million participants in the United States found that those who exercise had few days of poor mental health than those who did not exercise. According to the study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, all types of exercise were associated with better mental health. However, the largest associations were seen in popular team sports, cycling, and aerobic and gym activities with durations of 45 minutes and frequencies of three to five times per week. Researchers came to the conclusion that exercise was “significantly and meaningfully associated” with better mental health.

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