Summertime nutrition ‘frontline defense’ during the pandemic: Foods to fill your belly and your brain

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(CBS) — Better brain health may start on your plate. It’s peak season for summer fruits and vegetables that are nutrient-rich and can help with stress reduction, mood, and cognitive decline.

Brain health expert Dr. Teralyn Sell says summer favorites, like berries, can help stabilize blood sugar and reduce inflammation. “There’s some new emerging research that ties things like sugars and inflammatory foods to the inflammation of your brain. Those people were found to have more levels of major depressive disorder,” she says.

Vitamin-rich leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula can help slow cognitive decline. Dr. Sell suggests eating a veggie rainbow including bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, carrots, and tomatoes.

Another bonus – melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon have high water content, to keep you hydrated on hot summer days. Dr. Sell says, “They’re also rich with vitamin C, and vitamin C is so important to help you fight stress. And right now, that’s exactly what we need, things that can help us reduce our stress load.” She adds, “Over the last year we’ve seen a large amount of stress load on our brains and bodies because of the changes – the mass amount of changes that we’ve had to endure.”

She says nutrition can also be a frontline defense for mental wellbeing, especially during the pandemic. “I think we need to broaden what we can do individually to help take control and improve our mental health.

And a great place to start is how you’re fueling your brain,” Dr. Sell says. When you make it back to your kitchen, Dr. Sell says to keep it simple and fun and try focusing on one new item each week.

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