Eating more fruit, nuts and legumes and reducing sugary drinks may help to ease stress and anxiety in people aged over 60, new Australian research has found. The research examined about 300 Australians aged 60 and over and found a lower intensity of anxiety symptoms in people who followed a Mediterranean style diet, which is a diet high in fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil.

There searchers reported that when they examined individual food groups within the diet, the strongest impacts on easing anxiety and stress were related to a high intake of legumes and nuts and a low intake of sugar-sweetened beverages – less than one can of soft drink a week. Nuts and legumes are rich in fibre, healthy fats and antioxidants which are likely to help produce good bacteria in the gut, lower inflammation and in turn have a favourable effect on brain health. Higher vegetable intake was also associated with lower symptoms of depression.

The study included controls for other factors associated with poor mental health in otherwise healthy adults, like sleep, physical activity, body fat and cognition level and found that “regardless of your sleep, weight, exercise or brain function, a healthy diet really does matter when it comes to good mental health”.