Nature’s recipe to health and happiness: The immune-boosting and mood-enhancing benefits of fruits and vegetables

Picture by t to Julia Zolotova /Unsplash

Picture by t to Julia Zolotova /Unsplash

Published Aug 15, 2023


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 in your weekly grocery shop.

Winter can be tough, but there’s a secret weapon that can help us power through with a smile on our faces - fruits and vegetables! According to registered dietitian Abigail Park, these colourful foods are packed with phytonutrients that provide a wealth of benefits for our bodies and minds.

One of the great things about fruit is that it is not only delicious but also super healthy. Fruit is rich in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, they are a fantastic source of dietary fibre, which keeps our digestion in check, prevents constipation, and helps us maintain a healthy weight.

And the best part? Fruit is low in calories and high in water content, making them a perfect choice for those watching their weight.

But it doesn't stop there - fruit is a superhero when it comes to our mental wellness. Studies have shown that eating fruit can improve our cognitive function, making our brains sharper and more focused.

So, if you're struggling to concentrate during these last few weeks of winter, grab a juicy apple or a handful of berries to give your brain a boost.

Depression can also be a common struggle during the winter months, but fruit can also come to the rescue here too. They contain nutrients that support the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which plays a crucial role in regulating our mood and emotions.

So, by incorporating more fruit into our diet, we can potentially lower the risk of symptoms related to depression and improve mood overall, Parks brought to attention.

She points out that we've all been advised to take vitamins C and D, as well as zinc, to strengthen our immune function.

Well, guess what? Fruit has us covered! Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, while spinach, and legumes like chickpeas, seeds, and eggs are packed with zinc. So, by enjoying a variety of fruit, we can give our immune system a natural boost.

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.

According to Park, recent studies demonstrate an exceptionally strong connection between diet and mental health. For example, consuming four cups of fresh fruit and vegetables each day helps lessen the intensity of a depressive episode.

Similar to this, increasing your vitamin D consumption can reduce the likelihood of developing depression by 50%.

She goes on to say that there are numerous reasons why fruit and vegetables can assist with symptoms of anxiety and depression, but one of the key ones is that they are high in phytonutrients and fibre, which has an anti-inflammatory effect.

This is crucial since inflammation plays a big part in mental health.

Eat a rainbow of fruit and veg for better health.

Caryn Myers, the Managing Director of The Munching Mongoose, an organic fruit and vegetable delivery service, emphasises that no singular fruit or vegetable stands above the rest in terms of mood and immune-boosting properties.

Rather than fixating on a specific “superfood”, Myers encourages individuals to embrace a diverse range of produce, representing a variety of colours, as each offers unique phytochemicals that support different aspects of health.

To attain improved well-being, Myers suggests incorporating five servings of assorted fruit and vegetables into daily meals, preferably organic and packed with nutrients.

Research demonstrates that organic produce contains higher quantities of specific essential nutrients and antioxidants. Moreover, organic farming methods ensure that the produce is free from harmful residues found in conventional agriculture, including chemicals and pesticides.

Ultimately, the key message is crystal clear: By enhancing your fruit and vegetable intake, you can significantly bolster your overall wellness, encompassing both physical health and mental well-being.