I remember standing at the kitchen bench in the 1980s cutting kiwifruit and apples into ‘spikey’ halves – you know what I mean don’t you? Have a look at the image above – there’s the kiwifruit I’m referring to. In those days presenting the fruit like that was the most exotic thing that many of us did with food preparation. And look how amazing this fruit platter is?
Fruit is on my mind at the moment, especially when it comes to our end-of-year stress.
A brand new Australian study, the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study, reports a significant decrease in stress and anxiety when adults eat more fruit and vegetables.
Whilst I’m always cautious about high levels of fructose (a type of sugar) in fruit and the implications that too much fruit (over 4 pieces a day) may have on liver inflammation, I love this new study out of Australia, which explores the relationship between adults levels of stress and daily fruit consumption.
Perceived stress can be defined as the thoughts and feelings an individual has about how much stress they experience in response to stressful life events.
For women transitioning through menopause, our stress management is hugely important. When we feel stressed and over-whelmed, not only does this increase hot flushes, but it can also impact weight gain too.
How to manage our daily stress is something I share with women on the MyMT™ programmes. Their diet is an important consideration in their menopause symptom management.
Which is why, studies like this one add to the extensive lifestyle-science research that has been emerging about midlife symptom management. If you are already on anti-depressants due to menopause mood changes, or you are on HRT due to anxiety and stress, then you too might want to reflect on your diet. Knowing what to change and why is something that I focus women on if they are on these medications and yes, fruit is included in my Food Guide.
You don’t need more than four (4) pieces a day, according to liver health research, especially if you are pre-diabetic. However, when it comes to your mental health, 3-4 pieces of fruit daily is fine. Not juices – whole fruit.
Whole fruit, including the skin, is rich in fibre and healthy anti-oxidants. These are the nutrients that are evidenced to help to reduce inflammation in the body. Now, thanks to this new Australian study, we have information about the fruits that are best to reduce stress and anxiety. (Radavelli‑Bagatini et al., 2022).
These fruits included:
- orange and citrus fruits, and
When the study participants increased their consumption of these fruits, there was a statistically significant reduction in perceived stress levels. The study also mentioned cruciferous, yellow/orange/red, and legume vegetables, which were also associated with lower odds of having high perceived stress.
That’s good news for midlife and older women who have a lot going on towards the end of a busy year.
This work sits favourably alongside the Okinawan studies on fruit and vegetable consumption and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. In this study papaya extracts and papaya-associated nutrients were shown to possess anti-inflammatory and immuno-enhancing properties. [Yoshizaki, Ishihara et al, 2020]
Fruits, especially citrus fruits, are a hallmark of the Mediterranean Diet.
They are evidenced in post-covid fatigue research [Mortaz et al. 2021] and their healing nutrients, such as Vitamin C, are necessary for our recovering adrenal glands when we are stressed. So, why aren’t we eating enough fruit in our day? Do you eat enough?
We often forget about our fruit intake don’t we? I know that I used to as well. But why is this? What are our beliefs about fruit? And yes, I know that out-of-season, many fruits are expensive, but frozen fruits are an alternative (but not canned fruit, which is high in additional sugar).
Many women come off fruit due to the (often misguided) advice, that fruits will contribute to weight gain. But the nutritional value and the bioactive compounds in citrus fruits alone, play an important role in disease management in the Mediterranean Diet. [Preedy & Watson, 2020]
Dietary fibre from whole-fruit is another important consideration for women who are not only overweight, but who are struggling with constipation and/or high cholesterol levels.
Fibre is the part of fruits and vegetables that isn’t digested.
There are two different types of fibre – one of them called soluble fibre can form an adhesive solution (mucilage) with cholesterol deposits in the blood. This is present in many fruits.
Then there is fibre that is called insoluble fibre. This is present in numerous vegetables and this type of fibre increases the speed of gastrointestinal transit – and if you listen to my GUT HEALTH module, then you will also learn that during and after menopause, our gut motility slows down. But when we add insoluble fibre to our diet, then this influences the volume of stools, thus cleansing the gut wall. So, yes, we need both types of fibre in our daily diet!
The recommendations of “eating a rainbow” of colours may assist in preventing and/or reducing perceived stress too mentions the study and as December is ‘Re-address Stress’ month with MyMT™, I’m bringing fruit to your attention in this week’s MyMT™ Kitchen.
I hope you can make this beautiful fruit platter, complete with spikes on the kiwifruit, and share it on your Christmas table this year. On a day that is known to be stressful for so many women, you might just like to keep the stress levels at bay with this fabulous fruit platter. Don’t forget to spike the kiwifruit or the apples, or pears!
Mortaz E, Bezemer G, Alipoor SD, Varahram M, Mumby S, Folkerts G, Garssen J, Adcock IM. Nutritional Impact and Its Potential Consequences on COVID-19 Severity. Front Nutr. 2021 Jul 5;8:698617.
Radavelli-Bagatini S, Sim M, Blekkenhorst LC, Bondonno NP, Bondonno CP, Woodman R, Dickson JM, Magliano DJ, Shaw JE, Daly RM, Hodgson JM, Lewis JR. Associations of specific types of fruit and vegetables with perceived stress in adults: the AusDiab study. Eur J Nutr. 2022 Sep;61(6):2929-2938. doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-02848-5. Epub 2022 Mar 20.
Yoshizaki T, Ishihara J, Kotemori A, Yamamoto J, Kokubo Y, Saito I, Yatsuya H, Yamagishi K, Sawada N, Iwasaki M, Iso H, Tsugane S; JPHC Study Group. Association of Vegetable, Fruit, and Okinawan Vegetable Consumption With Incident Stroke and Coronary Heart Disease. J Epidemiol. 2020 Jan 5;30(1):37-45.