As the frosty grip of winter persists, we find ourselves counting down the days to the welcoming embrace of spring next month. But, before we can enjoy warmer days and bright blossoms, we need to see through a few more weeks of chilly temperatures.
We all know the age-old adage: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. While it’s no secret that fruit and veggies boost the immune system and help fight colds and flu, these nutritional powerhouses have another trick up their sleeve – they also help to ward off depression and banish the blues. That’s right, your daily dose of health and happiness might just be as close as the fresh produce aisle on your weekly grocery shop.
Registered dietitian, Abigail Park from Nutritional Solutions explains that because fruit and vegetables are packed with a range of phytonutrients, they provide a wealth of benefits that can make it easier for us to push through these last few weeks of winter, perhaps even with a smile on our face.
Amping up immunity
Fruits and veggies are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that bolster the immune system and strengthen the bodies defense mechanisms. “This is something many of us have always known, but we only really started paying attention to the immune-boosting power of fruit and veggies during the Covid pandemic,” Park says.
On the advice of doctors and pharmacists, many of us started supplementing our diets with Vitamins C and D as well as zinc, because these nutrients have been shown to play a role in immune function.
- Vitamin C, for instance, is found in citrus fruit, while spinach, legumes like chickpeas, seeds and eggs contain high levels of zinc.
- Vitamin A, which is also essential for the efficient functioning of the immune system, can be found in the form of beta-carotene in carrots and other orange vegetables.
- Although the best-known source of Vitamin D is the sun, mushrooms can also create their own Vitamin D. Simply slice them up and place them in direct sunlight for at least 15 minutes.
Natures remedy for depression
With the prevalence of depression on the rise, the colder months can quickly bring about feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and fatigue. Luckily, there is a more immediate solution than waiting for summer:
“Recent studies show that there is a very strong link between nutrition and mental wellness,” Park comments. “For instance, eating four cups of fresh produce per day can help to reduce the severity of a depressive episode. Similarly, upping your intake of Vitamin D can lower the incidence of depression by 50%.”
There are many reasons why fruit and veg can help address symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, she continues, but one of the main factors is that they are high in phytonutrients as well as fiber, and consequently have an anti-inflammatory effect. This is important, as inflammation is a significant role player in mental wellness.
Eat a rainbow of fruit and veg for better health.
Caryn Myers, Managing Director at The Munching Mongoose, an organic fruit and veg delivery service says that there is no single fruit or vegetable that is more beneficial than others when it comes to these mood- and immune-boosting properties. “Rather than advocating a specific ‘superfood’, people should eat the rainbow. Each different vegetable or fruit of a different colour contains phytochemicals which promote various aspects of health.”
Eat five servings of varied fruit and vegetables every day, and you should be on your way to enjoying better health – especially if that produce is organic and nutrient dense. “Studies show that there are larger amounts of certain nutrients and antioxidants in organic produce,” Myers adds. Added to this, produce grown organically is typically free of residue from the chemicals and pesticides used in conventional farming.
“The message is clear: your wellness – including physical health and mental wellbeing – can be bolstered tremendously by upping your fruit and veg intake,” Park concludes.
Also see: 4 Fruits to relieve constipation