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How one diet can reduce stress, anxiety

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New Australian research suggests that adopting a diet rich in fruits, nuts, and legumes while reducing consumption of sugary drinks may offer relief from stress and anxiety among individuals aged over 60.

The study, conducted on approximately 300 Australians in this age group, revealed a correlation between following a Mediterranean-style diet and experiencing milder symptoms of anxiety, according to Dr. Anthony Villani.

Dr. Villani, an academic at the University of the Sunshine Coast and a certified dietitian, noted that within the Mediterranean diet, emphasizing legumes and nuts while limiting intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, showed the most significant impact on reducing anxiety and stress levels.

He explained that legumes and nuts are packed with fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants, which promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, reduce inflammation, and consequently benefit brain health. Additionally, a higher intake of vegetables was associated with lower depression symptoms, though the overall effect on alleviating depression was not as pronounced as expected, prompting further investigation.

Dr. Villani emphasized the robustness of the findings, stating that even after accounting for various factors linked to poor mental health, such as sleep quality, physical activity, body composition, and cognitive function, the importance of a nutritious diet for mental well-being remained evident.

Looking ahead, Dr. Villani highlighted the need for human clinical trials to validate these findings further. The study, led by University of the Sunshine Coast honours graduate Lisa Allcock in collaboration with Dr. Villani and the University of South Australia, was recently published in the journal Nutrients.