Best fruits and veggies for easing stress

Feeling on edge? It may be time to up your fruit and vegetable intake, with new research revealing their benefits for stress relief. 

Most Australians don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Government statistics reveal half of people don’t eat the recommended two pieces of fruit each day, while 90 per cent fail to eat at least five serves of vegetables a day.

Fruits and vegetables are important for many reasons, from helping to maintain healthy blood pressure to reducing the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, and keeping our digestive systems healthy.

And new research suggests eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help reduce stress, too.

Fruit and vegetables linked to stress relief

Edith Cowan University researchers found people who ate at least 470g of fruits and vegetables a day had 10 per cent lower stress levels than men and women who ate less than 230g daily.

“The mechanisms as to how eating plenty of fruits and vegetables impacts stress levels isn’t yet clear,” Edith Cowan University Institute for Nutrition Research lead researcher Simone Radavelli-Bagatini says.

“It may be that the protective role is linked to some of the components found in fruits and vegetables, like carotenoids that give vegetables a red, yellow and orange colour and flavonoids found in apple skin that can lower inflammation.

“Some nutrients, like amino acids and minerals, also increase the happy hormones in the brain – serotonin and dopamine – that promote good feelings.”

The latest research supports an earlier University of Sydney study that linked eating three to four serves of vegetables a day to lower psychological distress, particularly for women.

That study found women who ate three to fours serves of vegetables had an 18 per cent lower risk of stress than women who ate none to one serves daily.

Women who ate two serves of fruit each day had a 16 per cent lower risk of psychological distress.

And research from New Zealand suggests we may get the best stress-lowering effects if we eat our fruits and vegetables raw, rather than cooked or processed.

“Our research has highlighted that the consumption of fruit and vegetables in their ‘unmodified’ state is more strongly associated with better mental health compared to cooked/canned/processed fruit and vegetables,” University of Otago psychologist and leader researcher Dr Tamlin Conner wrote.

“(Cooking and processing) likely limits the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional functioning.”

Top fruits and vegetables for easing stress and boosting mood

The study found the most effective stress-relieving fruits and veggies were:

  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Dark leafy greens such as spinach
  • Grapefruit and other citrus fruits
  • Lettuce
  • Fresh berries
  • Cucumber
  • Kiwifruit

What constitutes a serve of fruits and vegetables?


About 150g, which is:

  • A medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • Two small apricots or plums
  • A cup of diced or canned fruit


About 75g, equivalent to:

  • Half a cup of cooked green or orange vegetables
  • One cup of green leafy or raw salad vegetables
  • A medium tomato
  • Half a medium potato or sweet potato

Written by Sarah Marinos.