Fruits and vegetables are always the top recommendations for a healthy diet. Whether you’re eating them as a salad, snacks, dessert, smoothies, or part of your main dish, you can be sure that you will get a lot of nutrients from veggies and fruits. Some of the more popularly documented health benefits of fruits and vegetable consumption included increased dietary fiber intake for improved gut health, antioxidants for overall health protection, and vitamin and mineral intake for improved bodily functions.
But did you know that fruit and vegetables not only keep our bodies physically healthy, they also help improve our mental health? A recent study revealed which raw fruits and vegetables contribute the most to positive mental health. Take a look at the top five fruits and veggies that naturally boost mental health.
Carrots are nutrient-packed root vegetables that not only make your dishes colorful but also give you a lot of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs. When it comes to vitamin A content, few other vegetables have a higher content than carrots. A 100-gram serving of carrots will give you more than 300% of the daily values you need.
Carrots also contain vitamin K and C, B6, and B12, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and sodium. This colorful vegetable is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant and also a precursor of vitamin A. If you serve cooked carrots, you will be able to get the most of its beta-carotene content.
Aside from beta-carotene, carrots also contain other antioxidants like alpha-carotene, lutein, lycopene, anthocyanins, as well as polyacetylenes. All these antioxidants in carrots help ward off cardiovascular diseases, leukemia, and cancer. Lutein also helps in maintaining good eye health.
Of the many antioxidants found in carrots, the carotenoids are the ones that are linked to positive mood health characterized by optimism. People who eat more fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids tend to be more optimistic compared to those who eat two or fewer servings of these nutritious foods daily.
Bananas technically are berries but they’re more popularly considered as fruits. Whether they’re berries or fruits, one this is certain – bananas are extremely nutritious. Aside from being nutritious, bananas are also delicious, which is why many people add bananas in almost every health snack or drink they can think of.
Adding a banana into your morning smoothie won’t just give you the energy you need to greet the day, you’ll also get a lot of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 and C, potassium, and, of course, a load of antioxidants. Depending on the variety, size, and where it was grown, you can get 0.08 to 0.34 millimoles of antioxidants per 100-gram serving. These antioxidants include catechin and dopamine.
Catechin is the same antioxidant that you will find in green tea and it is associated with positive heart health. Dopamine found in our brains is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. The dopamine that you get from bananas, however, does not work like the neurotransmitter does. Instead, it functions as an antioxidant.
Aside from these nutritious vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the one thing that makes bananas really important for great mental health is that it contains tryptophan, a compound that is actually used in the formulation of medications for anxiety, insomnia, and even depression. If you feel that you’re in need of a mood enhancer, you don’t need to pop a pill, just eat lots of bananas.
Apples do keep the doctor away. Free of cholesterol and sodium but full of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and polyphenols, apples can help us ward off inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cancer and generally keep us healthy.
The main reason why apples are great for mental health is that it contains quercetin, another antioxidant. Quercetin plays a key role in keeping our brains healthy because it protects our neurons from cellular death caused by inflammation and oxidative damage. Moreover, drinking apple juice regularly may lead to the increased synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s important for proper brain functioning.
#4 Dark Leafy Greens
If you’re wanting to improve your diet and eat healthier foods, you can’t go wrong with dark leafy greens. Broccoli, arugula, collard greens, lettuce, endive, kale, spinach, turnip greens, watercress – these are among the healthiest veggies you can easily add to your meals.
These darker-colored vegetables are simply packed with so many nutrients and antioxidants that they’re just all-around healthy. Kale, for instance, contains no cholesterol but has a lot of vitamins A, B6, and C. It’s also rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium. Same goes with broccoli which is another great source of dietary fiber.
Previous studies have shown that dark leafy greens help elderly people prevent cognitive decline while maintaining sharp memories. One study had 960 participants with an average age of 81 and all of them ate considerable amounts of dark leafy greens they eat daily.
What was truly amazing about this project is that none of these participants had dementia. One key takeaway from this study is that if you want to avoid dementia in your senior years, try to eat salad every day. Or just make sure you eat at least a cup of raw greens or one-half cup of cooked darker-colored vegetables every day.
If you like eating sour fruits, you should make grapefruit as one of your favorites. A great source of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as potassium and phytochemicals like lycopene, grapefruit boosts the immune system, helps control appetite and promote weight loss through its dietary fiber content, enhance your cardiovascular health, and help with insulin resistance in diabetic patients.
Like many other citrus fruits, grapefruit also contains various antioxidants such as hesperidin and naringin, as well as quercetin. Flavonoids like hesperidin which are usually found in citrus fruits have been shown to help improve mental health by enhancing cognitive functions, increasing brain plasticity, and as a mood enhancer. Moreover, naringin has been shown to help increase the survival of brain cells that use dopamine as their main neurotransmitter.