Family Fun: Planting Summer Vegetables and Fruits for Brain Health

May 10, 2018 Providence Health Team

Eating the right vegetables and fruits for your brain makes sense and isn’t that hard.

Planting vegetables in your own back yard is fun and good for your brain. They taste better, too.

Taking care of your brain takes care of your whole body. It’s all connected.

Eating what you plant is good for your brain and just plain fun

There’s no doubt about it: vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins and minerals. But which ones help your brain the most? St. Joseph Health offers many resources to help you make good choices (see our links below) to keep your brain and the rest of your body healthy. And let’s have some fun while we’re at it: Why not plant a ‘smart’ garden with the best foods for your brain? Besides, gardening can be a great start to adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

Why we want our brains to be healthy

Getting the most out of your brain while reducing some of the risks to brain health over time is the foundation of brain health. The National Institute of Aging, National Institutes of Health says, “Throughout your life, your brain’s job is to help you make sense of the world and help oversee your daily operations and life. Brain health refers to the ability to remember, learn, play, concentrate and maintain a clear, active mind. It's being able to draw on the strengths of your brain—information management, logic, judgment, perspective, and wisdom.”

Our brains need these 5 things to thrive:

  1. Omega-3s (fatty acids that help the brain function.) Salmon, anchovies, and sardines are good sources, as are flax, walnuts, chia, and hemp seeds.
  2. Antioxidant vitamins, which are often found in whole vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, and spinach; fruits like avocados, peaches, blueberries, and watermelon, nectarines, nuts, (almonds and walnuts), and herbs and spices (ginger, garlic).
  3. Vitamin B12 and Folate – Dark green vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  4. Water – By itself, and water found in foods like watermelon, lettuce, pineapple, celery, and cucumber
  5. Phytonutrients – These are found in strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

While we cannot plant salmon and sardines, we can plant many vegetables and fruits listed above. Learn more about foods that can make a difference in your cognitive functioning.

You will want to do some research on where to plant, how to prepare the soil, how wide apart to space your veggies and fruits, whether you can plant in pots, and so forth. Check out the University of California’s gardening tips.

Is there such a thing as a smart vegetable? Maybe not, but there is smart eating and smart gardening. The whole family can enjoy the planning and planting process, letting the kids, mom and dad, and the grandparents choose their favorite food. Then it’s great to see the little seeds start to peek out of the ground, the tiny plants turn to bigger plants, the little buds turning to flowers, and the fruit or vegetable popping out like magic. Besides, there’s nothing much better than the taste of fresh-grown fruits and vegetables right out of the garden.

Now let’s get planting.

We cannot guarantee your garden will grow, but your family will have fun trying and will benefit from being active. Check out 25 more fun ways to get your kids moving.

In Southern California, Providence St. Joseph Health offers Healthy Plate Classes at the Center for Health Promotion locations in Santa and Brea, as well as encouraging and teaching healthy eating that corresponds to these nationally approved programs: MyPlate Vegetables, MyPlate Fruits, and MyPlate Oils. In Northern California, Healthy for Life improves the health and fitness of Sonoma County children through school-based exercise and nutrition education activities.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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