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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Fruits and veggies lower stress risk

When you begin to feel overwhelmed with stress and your heart starts beating faster, you may be tempted to reach for a donut, some pasta or a piece of chocolate. Comfort foods.

Sure, they might make you feel better for a little bit. But, over time, fresh vegetables and fruits may do more to help you feel cool as a cucumber.

What is stress?

Stress isn’t just a negative feeling in your head. It’s a biological response to a threat in your environment. It also contributes to many short-term, mild and serious diseases, including: 

"Over time, stress can elevate problems with asthma, diabetes, anxiety, depression, some skin conditions and gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome," says Gina McArdle, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Geisinger.

Of course, eating a healthy diet may not only reduce stress levels, but it also helps safeguard against many serious health issues.

Eat more fruits and vegetables to lower stress

"Eating fruits and vegetables every day can help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent health problems like diabetes and heart disease," says McArdle. "Research suggests the idea that nutrient-rich foods may also protect the body from stress."

One study found that people who ate three to four servings of fruits and vegetables each day were 12 percent less likely to feel stressed than those who had zero to one serving.

People who had five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables were 14 percent less likely to feel the effects of stress, compared to people who had zero to four servings.

In the study, women saw a bigger benefit than men. Women who ate five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day saw a 23 percent decrease in a stress risk.

How many fruits and vegetables should you eat?

Adult women should eat 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Men should eat 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day.

Eating the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

"What you eat is closely connected to your health — if you eat a healthier diet you’re likely going to have a healthier life with less stress," says McArdle.

Next steps: 

Make an appointment with a dietitian
Hungry? Check out our healthy recipes

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