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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


Can eating fruits and vegetables make you happier?

Fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, fiber and phytochemicals, especially antioxidants. Vitamins and minerals are important for optimal physical, cognitive and emotional health. Nutrient deficiencies involving omega 3, magnesium, vitamin D, B complex, iron, zinc, iodine and selenium have been linked with some forms of depression, and intervention studies have shown that eating more fruits and vegetables may improve symptoms in adults with depression.

According to a study published in April 2018, there is growing evidence that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower incidence of mental disorders, including lower rates of depression, perceived stress, and negative mood. Researchers believe the impact of eating fruits and vegetables on mental health is dose-dependent. In fact, an Australian study found that a shift from “low” to “high” intake of fruits and vegetables over 2 years resulted in significantly improved life satisfaction with an average increase comparable to moving from unemployment to employment. Some studies have also shown that positive moods may lead people to make healthier food choices, while negative moods such as stress may shift people towards overeating and making unhealthy food choices.

Although cooking can actually enhance the bioavailability of some components of fruits and veggies such as lycopene, and has minimal impact on fat-soluble vitamins, it may cause heat degradation of key micronutrients and water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and B vitamins), antioxidants, enzymes and other food components related to mental health. Cooking fruits and vegetables can alter the bioavailability of nutrients linked to influence the neurotransmission systems involved in mood and well-being. Eating raw fruits and vegetables (and not processed or cooked ones), is highly correlated to high mental health outcomes when controlling for other covariates (including socio-economic status, body mass index, sleep, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use).

If living life with a more positive attitude isn’t enough to get you to eat more fruits and vegetables, you should know that each of our organs’ cells are constantly renewing throughout our life. Since our bodies use what we eat and drink to renew tissue and organs, the saying “you are what you eat” is true every day of our lives. Authorities recommend filling half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, and eating 5 or more servings each day.

What counts as one serving?
- One medium fruit (approximately the size of a baseball)
- 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
- 1/4 cup dried fruit
- 1/2 cup fruit juice

- 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
- 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
- 1/2 cup vegetable juice

Recipe of the Week: Popeye Smoothie
Makes One (1) 12 oz. Serving

4 oz. Water or Coconut Water
1 Apple, cored/chopped
4 oz. Banana
Small Handful Spinach
1 Tbsp. Honey
6 Mint Leaves
4 oz. Ice

Place all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Top with chia seeds if you prefer.

*Recipe courtesy of Native Sun Natural Foods Market

Have a great weekend!

Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN

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