By: Janet Brancato, MS, RD, The Valley Hospital
Newswise — When you look down at your plate at meal times do you see a variety of colors? If the answer is yes, then you are probably eating very nutritious food. If not, then you may be missing important nutrients during your day. More color usually indicates more nutrition.
All fruits and vegetables contain healthy fiber and natural chemicals known as phytonutrients that can help protect against heart disease, cancer and age-related cognitive decline, cataracts and macular degeneration.
Health experts say that people should get a minimum of five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Nine servings are optimal for health maintenance. The serving sizes are small—each piece of fruit or one cup of chopped fruit or berries is a serving. For vegetables, one cup raw or a half cup cooked equals a serving. So load up your plate because these foods are naturally low calories and very nutritionally potent!
Red: Indicates the presence of lycopene, a phytonutrient that may help prevent cancer and maintain a healthy heart. Cooking actually concentrates the lycopene, so tomato sauce is rich in it. Other foods rich in lycopene are red peppers, watermelon, pink grapefruit, cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red grapes, beets, red onion and red potatoes.
Orange: Indicates the presence of Beta-Carotene, an antioxidant which is known to help prevent cancer and heart disease as well as helping to promote healthy vision and immunity. Foods rich in Carotenes are carrots, yams, cantaloupes, oranges, apricots, mangos, papayas, peaches and pumpkins.
Yellow:These foods are also high in Carotenes and Limonene, which are also important for cancer prevention and healthy vision. These include citrus fruits like lemons and grapefruits, corn, bell peppers, bananas and squash.
Green:These contain the chemicals sulforaphane and isocyanine and indoles, all of which help to ward off cancer by inhibiting carcinogens. Try including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, green beans, leafy greens, kiwi, limes and avocado.
Purple/Blue:Contain antioxidants and anti-aging benefits to protect memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks. Include blueberries, blackberries, plums, raisins, eggplant, and purple cabbage in your diet.
White/Tan/Brown:The onion family contains allicin, which has anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. These food choices also promote heart health and reduce cancer risks. They include brown pears, dates, white peaches, cauliflower, mushrooms, turnips, potatoes and white corn.
Hopefully, after reading this list, you are motivated to include a variety of colorful foods in your meals and snacks. Add some fruit to your breakfast and pack chopped carrots and peppers with a humus dip for an afternoon snack. Add a leafy green salad with tomatoes and avocado for dinner, along with a stir-fry of carrots, pea pods, garlic, onion, mushrooms and any other favorites. Finish off your dinner with a fresh piece of fruit for added benefits.