MIND Diet: Fruits & Vegetables
Content by: Jamie Rinaldi RD LD
What are some of the benefits of fruits and vegetables? And which ones does research suggest may protect cognition? Read to find out!
1️⃣ What are fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouse plant foods that have culinary and botanical classifications that often don’t coincide. We tend to refer to sweet and sour plant foods, often used in desserts, as fruits, while milder, more savory plant foods, most frequently consumed as side dishes or the bases of entrees, are considered vegetables.
Botanists have more scientific definitions for these two species of food. Fruits develop from the ovaries of flowering plants and contain seeds. Vegetables are all the other edible parts of plants: leaves, stems, bulbs, flowers, and roots. We misclassify many fruits as vegetables due to their flavor. Some examples are eggplant, tomatoes, avocados, olives, and zucchini. Alternatively, although we regard rhubarb as a fruit useful for delicious cakes, pies, and other desserts, it is technically a vegetable.
2️⃣ What are the health benefits of fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals supportive of good health and preventative of chronic diseases. Nutrition studies strongly suggest multiple health benefits from consuming fruits and vegetables, particularly with at least five servings a day. Furthermore, adequate intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risk of mortality. Some notable health benefits:
▪️ Cancer prevention
▪️ Stronger immunity
▪️ Improved mental health/lower risk of depression and anxiety
▪️ Enhanced heart health
▪️ Growth and development of children
▪️ Lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus
▪️ Less obesity
▪️ Better gut health
It’s important to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables to reap the benefits of all the nutrients they provide. A common recommendation from Registered Dietitians is to “eat the rainbow” because different colors often indicate the presence of specific nutrients and phytochemicals. Red produce is known for its content of lycopene, potentially preventative of prostate cancer, hypertension, and elevated “bad” cholesterol levels. Red fruits and vegetables also contain anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that may reduce the risk of heart disease. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are often colored by pigments termed carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is a vital nutrient for vision, maintenance of mucus membranes, and good skin integrity. Green plant foods get their color from chlorophyll, which potentially promotes wound healing and helps to prevent certain chronic diseases. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables, like some red produce, also get their color from anthocyanins.
The pigments in plant foods only represent a tiny fraction of the nutrition they possess. They are also loaded with folic acid, iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, indoles, allicin, and vitamins A and C, to name a few nutrients. Although no vegetable is off limits, the MIND diet emphasizes the green leafy ones. These are high in folate, phylloquinone, nitrate, alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), kaempferol, and lutein, all positively associated with cognitive health.
3️⃣ What fruits and vegetables are recommended within the MIND diet?
➟ Green, leafy vegetables
Spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula, endive, dandelion greens, grape leaves, mustard greens
➟ Other vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, asparagus, snow peas
➟ Beans and legumes
Black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, lentils, edamame, hummus
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
➟ Other fruits
Eggplant, tomatoes, squash, bell peppers
1️⃣ Add a variety of vegetables to soups, stews, pastas, omelets, meatloaf, and casserole dishes.
2️⃣ Snack on bell peppers with low fat dip.
3️⃣ Eat fruit as a dessert.
4️⃣ Pile vegetables on your sandwich or pizza.
5️⃣ Keep ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator where they are visible.
6️⃣ Add berries and leafy greens to smoothies.
7️⃣ Top cereal, pancakes, and French toast with berries.
8️⃣ Dip whole wheat pita slices in hummus or fresh salsa for a snack.
9️⃣ Roast edamame with your favorite seasonings for a snack.
🔟 Top yogurt with berries for a snack.
⏩ Head to the supermarket and stock up on produce!
🔢 Use the SoulFIRE Health Farmers Market app to find nearby options.
⏭️ Check out the Navigating the Farmer Market Experience.