Written by Karely Valdez
As one of PICA’s focuses includes food systems and food production, where we learn about how to grow sustainable food and the different impacts mass food production can have on the environment, I wanted to touch on how food in itself, impacts people's psychological and physical well-being. That is, how do the foods we grow and eat daily impact individuals mental health and physical body?
Focusing specifically on fruits and vegetables, this blog post focuses on the psychological and physical benefits of these rich nutrient foods that you are able to grow right from your own backyard! So let’s get started!
To begin, there has been evidence explaining how having a higher fruit and vegetable intake is related to better mental health, lower rates of perceived stress, as well as a decline in negative mood (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018). Not to mention, individuals who eat more fruits and veggies have a higher likelihood of optimal mental states including greater happiness and positive moods. (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018). Amazing right? Not only are fruits and veggies great for our bodies, but they benefit our mental capacity as well. Check out this video on How the food you eat affects your brain.
Further research that supports the evidence above, has shown that the foods we eat could be playing a role in the chemical composition of our brain, in turn affecting our mood (Huang, Liu, Suzuki, Ma, & Liu, 2019). Since fruits and veggies are rich in nutrients, including antioxidants, these foods have the power to modify serotonin status in our brain, leading to a positive mood (Huang et al., 2019). In other words, fruits and veggies can have a profound effect on how you feel!
So now let's get into some of the physical benefits of fruits and veggies!
Benefits of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and veggies include important sources on nutrients including potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C
Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy in order to protect against infections
Vitamin C helps in the process of healing cuts, wounds, and contributes to keeping teeth and gums healthy
Many fruits and veggies are an excellent source of prebiotics. Prebiotics contribute to keeping our gut bacteria in balance. Check out this video on How The Food You Eat Affects Your Gut.
Fruits and veggies protect against cancer and other diseases. They contain phytochemicals, which are chemical compounds produced by plants that generally help them resist fungi, bacteria, as well as consumption by insects and other animals. Thus, phytochemicals are biologically active substances that can help protect against some diseases
Fruits and veggies are low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats, allowing you to maintain good health
Fruits and vegetables contain fiber which is important in keeping you full as well as keeping digestion normal
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants, which help protect your cells!
Now that we have discussed the mental and physical benefits of fruits and vegetables, let’s touch on a few specific fruits and veggies and their specific benefits.
Pineapple: contains bromelain, a mixture of enzymes known for its anti-inflammatory properties
Avocado: contains healthy fats, mainly consisting of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat which has been linked with reduced inflammation. Avocados are also full with potassium, fiber and magnesium!
Blueberries: high in antioxidants which can reduce the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes
Apples: high in Vitamin C, potassium and Vitamin K (Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and regulating blood calcium levels)
Spinach: great for calcium, vitamins, iron, and antioxidants
Peas: high in fiber, Vitamin K, and Vitamin C
Tomatoes: contain potassium and Vitamin C
Beets: contain potassium. Beet and beetroots are great for improving heart health!
There we have it! Not only are fruits and vegetables great for your mental health by contributing to a positive mood and decreased stress, but they are a great source for your physical health. Fruits and veggies contain many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that contribute to protect against certain diseases and keep you feeling healthy!
Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Is Associated With Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology.
Huang, Q., Liu, H., Suzuki, K., Ma, S., & Liu, C. (2019). Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and Depression. Antioxidants.
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