Five Unexpected, Positive Effects of Fruits and Vegetables

Sara Lovelady Feb 27, 2015

Food can have a powerful effect on our bodies. If you need to be reminded of that fact, check out this article I recently came across, which explains some of the more, ahem, noticeable ways the foods we put into our bodies, including fruits and vegetables, can affect what comes out. If you’ve ever experienced asparagus pee (characterized by a potent sulfur smell), garlic B.O. (when your every pore seems to be exuding the stench of garlic), pine nut mouth (which leaves a metallic taste in your mouth) or a nutmeg high (too much of the stuff is hallucinogenic), you know what I’m talking about.

Most of the food effects discussed in this article are harmless, if less than welcome. But it got me thinking about the positive effects fruits and vegetables can have on our bodies and what they tell us about our overall health.

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Sweet potato skin

What It Is: That healthy glow you get from eating lots of sweet potatoes or other carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables.

What Causes It: Carotenoids (the yellow-red pigments in fruits and veggies such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, red peppers, and carrots).

What’s Happening: A diet high in carotenoids has been shown to support skin health by giving your complexion a rosy glow after just six weeks of increased consumption.[1] These plant pigments accumulate in your skin, literally changing its color. That’s a good thing, because carotenoids are antioxidants, which means in addition to making you look better, they’re also protecting your skin against UV damage.

Fruit and Vegetable Effect: Blueberry brain

What It Is: The mental clarity you find from eating blueberries every day.

What Causes It: Anthocyanins (the red, blue, and purple pigments in fruits and vegetables like blueberries, purple cabbage, and beets).

What’s Happening: Anthocyanins are thought to increase signaling in the brain. That could be why eating them has been shown to support mental health, improving memory, learning, and mood. [2],[3]

Fruit and Vegetable Effect:Apple breath

What It Is: The sweet breath you get from chomping on apples.

What Causes It: Fiber.

What’s Happening: When you eat crunchy, high-fiber foods, your mouth makes more saliva, and the oxygen in saliva inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Apples also support oral health because they’re particularly effective at cleaning your teeth, removing the food particles that bacteria so love.[4]

Fruit and Vegetable Effect:Leafy green eyes

What It Is: The visual clarity that comes from consuming plenty of leafy greens.

What Causes It: Lutein and zeaxanthin (the yellow pigments in leafy greens like kale and spinach, as well as some yellow vegetables such as corn).

What’s Happening: Numerous studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin support vision health. Specifically, they protect against age-related macular degeneration — the leading cause of blindness in people over 55.[5] These pigments actually collect in the macula of the eye, where they act like a shield to filter out damaging UV light.

Fruit and Vegetable Effect:Broccoli mood

What It Is: The good mood that comes with being a regular broccoli eater.

What Causes It: Folate.

What’s Happening: Folate, also known as folic acid when consumed in supplement form, is an essential B vitamin. Folate deficiency has been linked to depression.[6],[7],[8] This may be because folate helps the body make neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which support mood health.[9]

While you may not want asparagus pee or pinenut mouth, I’m guessing you’d love to have sweet potato skin, blueberry brain, apple breath, leafy green eyes, and broccoli mood! Have you noticed what positive effects eating fruits and vegetables has on your health?


[1] Whitehead RD, et al. You are what you eat: Within-subject increases in fruit and vegetable consumption confer beneficial skin-color changes. PLoS One. 2012;7(3).
[2] Krikorian R, et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14; 58(7):3996-4000.
[3] Rendeiro C, et al. Flavonoids as modulators of memory and learning: molecular interactions resulting in behavioural effects. Proc Nutr Sci. 2012 May; 71(2):246-62.
[4] Chan A. Fresh breath foods: what to eat before you pucker up. Huffington Post. 2013 Feb 13.
[5] Daniells, S. “Study Unlocks Door to Xanthophyll’s Eye Health.” Nutraingredients. 2008 Jul 18.
[6] Nguyen PH, et al. Micronutrient supplementation may reduce symptoms of depression in Guatemalan women. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2009 Sep;59(3):278-86.
[7] Fava M, et al. Folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine in major depressive disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Mar;154(3):426-8.
[8] Alpert M, Silva RR, Pouget ER. Prediction of treatment response in geriatric depression from baseline folate level: interaction with an SSRI or a tricyclic antidepressant. J Clin Psychopharmacol.2003 Jun;23(3):309-13.
[9] Bottiglieri T, et al. Homocysteine, folate, methylation, and monoamine metabolism in depression. J Neurol Neuroserg Psychiatry. 2000 Aug;69(2):228-32.

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