Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Do you feel like your mood is dropping along with colder temperatures? Take a deep breath and spend a moment to reflect upon how you eat. Are you eating three meals each day? Do you consume more than two types of fruits and vegetables every day? Are you always on the run eating convenience foods? Improving mood comes hand-in-hand with feeling good mentally and physically. Eating a well-balanced meal plan is a great way to achieve both.

Holiday treats may become staples during the holiday season, but now is the time to get back to healthier habits for the rest of the winter months! Include a variety of foods from each of the five Food Groups in meals without restriction. Over restriction may lead to binge eating, or at the very least, a drop in blood sugar that can leave you feeling tired, sluggish, grumpy and overwhelmed. One secret: Always include a fruit and vegetable from different colors of the rainbow when building daily meals and snacks. Each color you eat provides an assortment of antioxidant-acting plant compounds that help keep you feeling energized.

Although the food you eat won’t instantly make you feel happier, foods like fruits and vegetables will help your body function properly. For example, the brain uses nutrients such as selenium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins C, E and all the B vitamins to function properly. These minerals and vitamins make, protect and transport important messengers to your cells like dopamine and serotonin that keep you feeling happy and focused. Deficiencies of such vitamins and minerals may lead to similar feelings of low blood sugar simply because the body doesn’t have the necessary “ingredients” your brain needs to ensure food is broken down and used properly by your cells. Consuming dark leafy greens like spinach and kale and citrus fruits like mandarins and grapefruits are just a few ways to ensure you get essential nutrients such as B vitamins, selenium, magnesium and vitamin C.

An easy, and tasty, way to include more fruits and vegetables into your day is with smoothies. Check out this recipe from Dole Food Co.

Pineapple and Greens Smoothie

What You Need:

1/2 cup frozen pineapple

1/4 avocado, peeled and sliced

1/2 peeled, medium banana

2/3 cup 100% orange juice

1/4 cup lowfat milk or unsweetened almond milk

1 handful salad greens (e.g., spinach or kale)

How to Make It:

  1. Combine pineapple, avocado, banana, juice and milk in blender. Cover and blend until smooth.
  2. Add in greens, cover and continue to blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!

This column was written in collaboration with University of Saint Joseph Nutrition Student Brighid Brennan and Carrie Taylor. Carrie is the lead registered dietitian nutritionist for the Living Well Eating Smart program at Big Y Foods and registered yoga teacher. Have a nutrition question? E-mail [email protected] or write Living Well at 2145 Roosevelt Ave, PO Box 7840, Springfield, MA 01102.

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