Not only do colorful fruits and veggies make for a beautiful plate, a number of studies have shown mood improvement with varied fruit and vegetable consumption.
The Power of Fruits and Veggies
Studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables, can reduce markers of inflammation1. Since a variety of mental health conditions, including mood disorders, have been linked to heightened inflammation, a diet rich in anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables can be beneficial2. To consume the greatest variety of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Each color has different benefits!
Red = lycopene, vitamin C, folate, and flavonoids
- For most of us, strawberries aren’t in season in the fall, but it doesn’t matter when frozen fruit is available! Frozen fruit is picked at the peak of season and flash frozen to retain high levels of vitamin C in a convenient package. Whether as a snack, or meal accompaniment, a strawberry smoothie made with yogurt is a great way to get protein, calcium, and antioxidants in a glass!
Yellow/Orange = beta carotene and vitamin C
- Carrots are inexpensive and easy to find year-round. The convenience of pre-cut baby carrots and wavy carrot chips make for an easy snack or lunch side. Carrot juice also makes a great base for squash soup.
- Squash, in season in the fall, is available in many shades of orange and yellow. Spaghetti squash, in particular, is quick and easy to prepare. Simply poke holes in the squash and microwave until tender, about 6 minutes. With hands protected by gloves or a kitchen towel, carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and use a fork to scrape out the strands. Serve with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan.
- Or try this cozy Pumpkin Poblano Chili!
Green = folate, vitamin K, potassium, and carotenoids
- Dark leafy greens contain folate and other B vitamins, which have been shown to positively affect neurotransmitters that impact your mood. Top house favorites, like pizza, pasta, or casseroles with thinly sliced spinach for extra nutrition in a meal where you might not normally consume a leafy green.
Blue/Purple = anthocyanins
- Blueberries, whether fresh, frozen, or dried, make for a great snack. Top salads, blend into smoothies, or add to trail mix for an antioxidant-fueled fall hike!
- Purple cabbage, available through the winter, makes for a delicious crunchy slaw atop sandwiches, noodle, or, grain bowls. Try grilled cabbage topped with a creamy yogurt sauce or salty cheese, like feta.
The Hydration Factor
Fruits and vegetables provide water, the body’s most essential nutrient. Even mild dehydration has been associated with increased negative emotions such as anger, hostility, confusion, depression, and tension3.
Fruits and vegetables with a high water content that are in season or easy to find right now include4:
- Lettuces and greens
- Pears, fresh or canned
- Frozen strawberries
- 100% fruit juice
It’s important now more than ever to take care of our mental health. Consuming fruits and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, dried, or canned, can be part of that process. In a time when we’re cooking at home more than ever, don’t be afraid to try something new and get creative! Not sure where to start? Check out this recipe page for inspiration!
KastoriniC-M, Milionis HJ, Esposito K, Giugliano D, Goudevenos JA, Panagiotakos DB. The effect of Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome and its components: a meta-analysis of 50 studies and 534 906 individuals. J Am Coll Cardiol2011;57:1299-313. doi:1016/j.jacc.2010.09.073 pmid:21392646
YuanN, Chen Y, Xia Y, Dai J, Liu C. Inflammation-related biomarkers in major psychiatric disorders: a cross-disorder assessment of reproducibility and specificity in 43 meta-analyses. Transl Psychiatry2019;9:233. doi:1038/s41398-019-0570-y pmid:31534116
Liska D, Mah E, Brisbios T, Barrios P, Baker L, Spriet L. Narrative Review of Hydration and Selected Health Outcomes in the General Population. Nutrients 2019, 11(1), 70
Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug; 68(8): 439–458.doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x