Food for Thought: Are You Working the 5 to 9?

Posted on Posted in Brain Health, Food, Nourishment


Welcome to the 10-day Food for Thought series. I am writing this series for the Illinois Region of Phi Theta Kappa to promote healthy, focused, smart brains. Post #7 is all about getting your 5 to 9 servings of produce to detox your brain and body.



Work your 5 to 9.

There are numerous debated subjects in the field of nutrition. One thing, though, that everyone is sure of, is that getting five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily is necessary for optimal health. Eating this much produce has a huge impact on risk reduction for nearly every known disease, including heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, mood disorders, and behavior disorders.

One reason we emphasize 5 to 9 servings is because our the nutrients in our soil has diminished over the 60 years or so. You need more servings to get your nutrients. Depending on your individual body, you may still need to supplement with a quality multivitamin or individual vitamin or mineral.

There are many things in fruits and vegetables that product us from disease and increase our overall wellness and brain function. The big deal with produce is phytonutrients. They are tiny, but they pack a punch. They control inflammation, protect cells from long-term damage and get rid of toxins with their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxifying skills.

I talked a bit about the anti-inflammatory power of omega-3 fats, the amazing do-it-all power of turmeric, and the GABA-promoting property of tea. Today the focus is how specific vegetables, fruit and herbs can DETOXIFY.

Chemicals In, Chemicals Out

More than 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced into our environment since the 1800’s. Many of them have been untested and many are used as pesticides to “protect” our food. These toxic chemicals are in the food that many of us eat every day. Ingesting these toxins, and being exposed to those in the atmosphere, affect the health of our brain.

The good news: You can help to detoxify your body with your power of choice. All fruit, vegetables, tea, and herbs help to detox your body of undesirable chemicals. Remember that Organic is the best choice because non-Organic fruit and vegetables are likely to put more toxins in your body.


brussels sprouts


Power List of detoxifying foods:


All Cruciferous Vegetables are Detoxifiers!





Broccoli rabe

Brussels sprouts


Bok Choy

Chinese cabbage


Cabbage head


Other Plant-based Detoxifiers

Green tea

Brazil nuts


Dandelion greens


Artichokies (I realize the typo, but I think I’m going to call them artichokies from now on.)


Citrus peels










It can be overwhelming to think about getting up to 9 servings of vegetables and fruit per day. Personally, I like to eat my food and not drink it. I know some people get many servings through juicing, but I’m not a big fan of juicing because it eliminates the fiber. Again, I think eating food is more pleasurable and satiating than drinking it.

A serving of greens (like spinach, romaine or collards) is one cup raw, or 1/2 cup cooked. A serving of other vegetables (like mushrooms, peppers or Brussels sprouts) is 1/2 cup. A large banana or apple is two servings. Otherwise, all other fruit is about a 1/2 cup or one medium fruit (like an orange, or two clementines).


Here is what a 9-serving day looks like:

Breakfast: 2-egg omelet with 1/2 cup mixed vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, onions) and an orange (2 servings)

Post-workout smoothie: light coconut milk with 1/2 cup mango chunks, 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach and plain greek yogurt (2 servings)

Lunch: Large mixed greens salad (2 cups) with 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 3 oz. Organic grilled chicken, balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp olive oil (2 servings)

Snack: 1/2 banana with 2 Tbsp almond butter (1 serving)

Dinner: 5-ounce salmon fillet with 1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes and one cup of Brussels sprouts (2 servings)


How will you increase your intake? 

I wrote a series of three posts with ideas to increase your veggie intake. Here is Part I, Part II and Part III of Get Your Veggie On!