Women who eat their five a day are less likely to suffer from stress. PICTURE: Supplied

Women who eat their five a day are less likely to suffer from stress.

Consuming plenty of fruit and vegetables was linked to a lower risk of developing the condition of up to 27 per cent. But the effects were only seen in women with men apparently enjoying notably fewer benefits.

Doctors have long advised eating fruit and vegetables to protect physical health. But the latest findings also underline their importance for mental wellbeing. Australian researchers examined data from 60,000 adults over the age of 45. When they broke down the women’s diets, they found fruit and vegetables, together and separately, were beneficial.

Women who ate three or four daily servings of vegetables had a 20 per cent lower risk of stress, while those who had more than two portions of fruit had a 21 per cent lower risk. In combination, women who ate five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables had a 27 per cent lower risk of stress.

Nutrients are thought to be responsible for example, dark, leafy greens such as spinach are rich in folate, helping to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine which improve mood. Among men, however, the results initially showed those who ate five portions of fruit or vegetables a day were only 8 per cent less likely to suffer stress, and further analysis showed these results were not statistically significant.

The researchers, writing in the journal BMJ Open, think this may indicate a biological difference in the way men and women process the nutrients in plants. They wrote: ‘It is possible that there may be a true physiological difference between men and women, although a mechanism that could explain this is unclear.’ But they said an alternative explanation may be that women are simply better at recalling what they have eaten.

Researcher Dr Melody Ding, of the University of Sydney, said her latest study underlines the importance of diet for a healthy brain.

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