Everybody knows that a healthy body requires plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. What’s less obvious is which fruits and vegetables support the different systems in your body. How can produce best be consumed for the optimal health of your body’s functions?
Immune System Support
The immune system is your body’s most important defense system against infections, viruses, disease, and injury. Proper nutrition helps support its ability to fight off unfriendly invaders in your body.
Vitamins C and E are necessary for basic immune function support. Vitamin E can be found in almonds and sunflower seeds while kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, kale, red peppers, and tomatoes are your best sources of C. Keep in mind that heat can diminish vitamin C so eating them fresh is best.
Produce supplies other nutrients needed for a healthy immune system as well:
- Copper is found in many kinds of legumes, such as lentils.
- Folate (vitamin B12) is in green leafy vegetables like spinach.
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and apricots are excellent sources of vitamin A.
- Avocados provide vitamin E.
- Soybeans, chia seeds, and flax seeds provide omega 3 fatty acids.
Healthy Gut-Brain Connection
It’s been said that you are what you eat, but it’s also true that you feel what you eat. A healthy gut supports your immune system and is also necessary to maintain good mental health! This is the foundation of the gut-brain connection.
Your stomach and intestines impact how your brain functions, and much of that depends on the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut. Too many unhealthy bacteria in the gut caused by poor food choices can torpedo your mood. This can lead to anxiety, stress, and even anger. However, when “good” bacteria are dominant, they can alleviate negative emotions and boost your mood.
To restore this balance, eat fermented produce rich in probiotics, like sauerkraut and kimchi. Prebiotics are necessary as well, and these can be found in onions, garlic, cabbage, asparagus, legumes, and leeks. Omega 3 foods round out your choices to support good gut health.
Keep these produce options top of mind when you are feeling down!
It should be no surprise that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables supports a healthy cardiovascular system. Eating red meat, especially conventional and processed meat products, can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Whether you choose to eat vegetarian, vegan, or healthier meats like grass-fed organic beef, your meals should consist of primarily vegetables, legumes, and fruit. This type of diet will help reduce bad cholesterol, protecting your heart. Some of the best heart-healthy farmed foods are leafy greens, asparagus, garlic, carrots, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
There are many more benefits, too! For example, a 2012 study surveying 70,000 women showed that those who ate more citrus fruits had a 19% lower risk of stroke than those who ate less. And foods rich in potassium and magnesium, like beans and leafy greens, can help lower your risk as well.
Produce full of flavonoids can help improve the health of your veins. These provide important antioxidants that can help blood flow, lower inflammation, and support tissue connectivity. Strawberries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, garlic, eggplant, mango, oranges, asparagus, bell peppers, and spinach are good options to support anyone with vein health issues.
Keep in mind that if you have had a stroke, have blood clots, or take blood-thinning medications, foods high in vitamin K, such as leafy greens, can affect your blood flow. Talk to your doctor before adding more of these to your diet.
Vision problems are common in the U.S., with over 10 million people affected. Some of these conditions come from aging. However, since the eye is a delicate and complex organ, many people will experience some type of difficulty or injury.
The good news is that there are plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables that support good eye health. One of the most important nutrients is vitamin A, which keeps your retina working properly. It also helps your eyes to stay moist so if you struggle with dry eyes, pay attention to your diet! Vitamin C and E also protect your eyes.
Other eye-healthy nutrients include:
- Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that support detailed vision. These are found in leafy greens.
- Zinc protects your eyes from harmful light and is found in many beans.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. The right foods support healthy, supple skin and protect it from aging. Plant-based omega 3 fatty acids and foods rich in vitamins C and E are important too.
Other skin-supporting nutrients and antioxidants can be found in grapes, beets, spinach, blueberries, pomegranates, and apples. Once again, sweet potatoes are a good choice. In this case, they boost collagen to strengthen your skin.
Eating a diet rich in farm-fresh produce helps support a healthy body. Immune function, cardiovascular health, gut-brain connections, healthy vision, and gorgeous skin are just some of the systems benefitted by generous servings of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Add these items to your plate to create a foundation for optimal health.
Now that you know the true importance of eating farm-fresh produce, it’s time to get your hands on the most nutrient dense options. The more recent produce have been harvested, the more nutrient dense they are. Purchasing your produce from a nearby farm stand or farmers’ market can be a great option because those produce will have been harvested the day before or sometimes even the day of purchasing. Or better yet, you could have your own home garden so you can always enjoy produce just after picking, when they are at their peak in nutritional value!
Learn about Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow by clicking here.
Learn about the farms located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park by clicking here and find out which ones offer a farm stand.