Adding a Rainbow of Vitamins and Good Nutrition to Your Diet
View All Section Pages
The majority of American plates and palates feature beige and white foods, such as bread, meat, potatoes, crackers, chips and cookies. These foods can fit into a healthy diet, but they often displace other foods that provide a wealth of health benefits, including colorful fruits and vegetables.
The suggested quantity for fruits and vegetables depends on a person’s calorie needs, which are determined by age, gender and activity level. For example, if you are consuming 2,000 calories a day, you need to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily. One cup of vegetables is equal to 12 baby carrots or 1 cup of cooked spinach. One cup of fruit is equivalent to a large banana or eight large strawberries.
Research has shown that those who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower body weight and a lower risk of developing certain types of cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The compounds that make fruits and vegetables so colorful, known as phytochemicals, also provide several cancer-fighting benefits that cannot be matched by a multivitamin.
Benefits in Every Color
- Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene and tannins.
- These compounds have strong antioxidant properties that may lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease and certain forms of cancer–particularly prostate cancer.
- Food sources: watermelon, red apples, red pears, raspberries, cherries, red grapes, cranberries, beets, tomatoes, red peppers, radishes, radicchio, blood oranges and rhubarb.
Blue and Purple
- The primary phytochemical responsible for the beautiful purple and blue hues are anthocyanins.
- These foods are packed with antioxidants to help support healthy blood pressure, decrease blood clot formation and lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Food sources: blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, purple peppers, plums, purple figs, raisins, black currants, red cabbage, eggplant and purple asparagus.
Yellow and Orange
- Alpha- and beta-carotenes combined with beta-cryptothanxin and limonoids infuse brightness into this group of fruits and vegetables.
- Known for their immunity-boosting properties, these phytochemicals play a key role in protecting your eyes against cataracts.
- Food sources: apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, peaches, papayas, nectarines, oranges, pineapple, grapefruit, lemons, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, corn, yellow peppers, yellow beets, yellow figs and golden kiwifruit.
- A variety of greens are labeled as “super foods.”
- Full of isothicyanate, sulforaphane, indoles, lutein and zeaxanthin, these fruits and vegetables assist the liver in removing cancer-causing toxins.
- These compounds may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Food sources: green pears, green apples, honeydew melon, green grapes, kiwi, limes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, leafy greens, endive, green peppers, green beans, green peas, zucchini, artichokes, celery, asparagus, avocados, leeks and green onions.
- Though not as brightly colored as the other groups, white fruits and vegetables have a place on our plates too!
- Allicin and flavonoids are two phytochemicals that act as antioxidants to lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Food sources: bananas, brown pears, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, jicama, mushrooms, white nectarines, white potatoes, onions, parsnips, shallots and turnips.
Tips to Colorize Your Plate
If you want to eat more fruits and vegetables but don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas to incorporate them into your food routine:
- Start your day with a smoothie. Blend ½ of a frozen banana, 1 cup of mixed berries and 1 to 2 cups of spinach or greens of your choice (don’t worry – you won’t taste them over the fruit!). This creamy beverage contains two fruit servings and one or two vegetable servings.
- Add a fruit to breakfast—try berries on your cereal or sliced bananas with peanut butter on whole-wheat toast.
- Wash and slice whole fruits and vegetables ahead of time for a grab-and-go snack. Cut up some pears or apples with celery or cucumbers as a light and refreshing bite to eat.
- Pre-prep vegetables, such as asparagus or zucchini, to easily grill or roast for a quick dinner side.
- Enjoy fresh fruit as a dessert, such as sliced kiwis, strawberries or watermelon.
- Be creative! Find ways to blend fruits or vegetables into different dishes—make pasta sauces with chopped mushrooms or eggplant, or toss some oranges or sliced apples into a salad.
Challenge yourself to eat a food from each color group every day. Eating a variety of colors not only makes your plate look brighter and better, it can help enhance your health in many ways!
To learn more about making healthy eating decisions, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.
Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.