Let’s add more color to our life by eating more colorful fruits and vegetables, that is! I like to remind my readers annually because we can all increase our health by changing how we think about food. Fall is officially here, and we all know how spectacular the fall colors are, so let’s begin to eat choose more seasonal fruit and veggies by color. So much of the time our focus is on weight loss and calories, but this week let’s change our emphasis to the “color” variety in our eating so the nutrients will follow!
In fact, focusing on color in our foods is one easy and fun way to teach young children about nutrition, and to make eating their veggies fun. Some of the more popular fall varieties include several types of squash (acorn, butternut, and spaghetti, just to name a few), apples of all kinds, beets, rutabaga, sweet potatoes and of course pumpkin (we’ll be getting ready for Halloween soon!).
When I think of colors for fruits and vegetables, I tend to quickly think of orange/yellow for fruits and green for vegetables. And yes, it is these very colors made up of pigments (nature’s dyes) that are the phytochemicals known for their disease fighting properties. And the deeper the color, the higher the amount of phyto’s! We all know that fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber, but how often do we think about their cancer fighting properties because of their color?
So, here by color are the fruits and vegetables that pack the most phyto’s (mostly from the carotenoid group) from fall’s colorful selections (don’t forget that these all have many other vital nutrients such as Vitamin C, an antioxidant too!),
Orange: sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, apricots, cantaloupe, winter squash, papaya (lots of fall colors here).
Green: kale, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, broccoli, arugula, beet greens, romaine lettuce, okra (cooked), zucchini.
Red: Tomato juice, tomato (highest source for body when cooked such as sauce, puree), red peppers (very high in beta carotene).
Red/Purple: beets, eggplant, red apples (lots of heart healthy fiber and don’t forget to eat the skin for the phyto Anthocyanin), prunes.
Yellow: yellow corn.
Pink: pink grapefruit.
Blue/Purple: blueberries, prunes, grapes (these contain caffeic acid, another less known type of phytochemical which helps the body to excrete carcinogens, and the powerful Anthocyanins found in the skin and seeds of these fruits).
Color also appeals to our visual sense making a pretty plate, so colorful fruits and veggies can satisfy our need for variety. Even more, than just the variety of species, but also the endless variety of ways to eat each of them from salads, to side dishes to soups, to main courses, to desserts and even to delicious pies (yes, we can make a healthy low fat pie from scratch, look for my recipe soon)!
Speaking about our visual sense, one other well- known and documented benefit to eating deeply colored foods is that they replenish the pigments in the retina of our eyes. Our retina has the highest amount of pigmentation of any organ in our body, with many things contributing to its loss including sunlight, resulting in macular degeneration as we age. These precious pigments in our eyes absorb the sun’s harmful rays, and unless we replenish them with deeply colored foods over time as we age, we lose significant amounts of them. But we can eat foods high in the carotenoids, including the Beta-Carotenoids, Lutein, and Xeaxanthin found in these colorful foods, which replenish the loss of pigment.
So, how many different colors did we eat today? How many did we eat this past week? Next time we shop at our local market, let’s pick out a variety of colors. Check out a great website for more info on fruits and veggies by season http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=674 and here’s one to find a local farmer’s market in your area http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/
Here’s to Our Health!
June M Lay M.S.
Need some short term “eat -healthier” or “lose a few or more pounds” help? Research has now shown health coaching works! Contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org for info on my new Telephonic Health & Weight Loss Coaching Program. Individual sessions available as well.
June is Lifestyle Columnist at www.healthnewsdigest.com/