… Colors Abound in Mine!
It can be easy to get into a rut of eating the same fruits and vegetables over and over in our daily routines. While I would never discourage you from eating fruits and vegetables, it is important to consider if you are reaping all the available benefits for your efforts. It seems everywhere we go we find nutritionists, allergists, fitness gurus, and even a small handful of MDs espousing the benefits of a well-balanced variety of these vitamin-rich foods. And they’re right! Including generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a well-balanced diet has been shown to help the body maintain better health, reduce obesity, and potentially reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes, just to name a few of the high-risk diseases plaguing our society today. But why is this variety so important? Basically, different colors contain different vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. Eating a virtual rainbow of these foods can supply one's body with more balanced nutrition, so your good efforts pay greater dividends. And who can argue with that reasoning?
This brings me back to my original question … How colorful is your sink after preparing a meal? The more colorful the discards are in your sink when you’ve finished prepping a meal … you know the dicing, slicing, chopping, peeling … the more likely it is that you’ve consumed a good variety of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. “But this requires more work, right?”, I hear you asking. “And what’s the best way to do this because I have such picky eaters at home.”
Start slow. Trying too many new foods at one time can potentially have negative repurcussions. There are a couple of important reasons I say this. First, when you’re introducing a new fruit or vegetable, if there is any type of reaction to it, you want to be able to easily identify the culprit. Give a new food 24-72 hours before introducing another one. Secondly, usually new ideas are more readily accepted if they don’t seem overwhelming initially. Sidebar here … I made the mistake of being so excited to have my new Hurom juicer and reap all the benefits of every fruit, vegetable, and herb it could process, that I went a bit overboard. Yep, I threw caution to the wind and well, let’s just say that the color was better than the taste, and the color was something “unnatural looking”, even though it was more natural than any juice I’d ever purchased from the store. But I drank the whole glass of it, if for no other reason than to have this be a constant reminder to curb my overzealousness. My son tasted it and he still is gun-shy of my improved juicing abilities.
Another helpful tip: start with foods you know and enjoy, and work from there. For example, if oranges are a favorite, try introducing tangerines, minneolas, red and yellow grapefruit, tangelos, etc. Or if sweet potatoes are a hit, try introducing rutabagas by way of a mashed sweet potato/mashed rutabaga duo side dish. When making a salad with iceberg lettuce, add just a small handful of finely chopped spinach and romaine leaves. If raisins are a taste treat, next time include a couple of dried cherries or blueberries. Maybe no one will even notice. Be creative … it’s okay to be the master of disguise. Gradually the taste buds will become familiar with the new flavors, and the unveiling of these new foods can happen over time, even while the nutrients are sneaking their way into the daily menu.
Here is a list of some delicious and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to help move you out of the rut, create a colorful palate in your sink, and bring you a rainbow of disease-fighting choices. And if you’re already great at using variety, don’t stop here. Move into vegetables and fruits more commonly found in other cuisines by visiting the local farmer’s markets or your ethnic stores. It’s amazing what you can find. Be sure to share your discoveries, or your “master of disguise” stories with us. At the bottom of this article you’ll find the health benefits of each nutrient listed.
Nutrient-Rich Foods … by Color
Red – most are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, lycopene, quercetin, flavonoids
any variety of red apples
red bell pepper
hot red peppers
Orange – most are rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium
Yellow – most are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, potassium
Golden Delicious apples
yellow bell pepper
Green – most are rich in vitamin K, many fall into the cruciferous category
Granny Smith apples
snow or snap peas
green bell pepper
Blue and Purple – most are rich in anthocyanin and flavonoids
White – most are rich in quercetin
While many of the fruits and vegetables can be categorized by nutrients or food “species”, for the purpose of this article, I’ve grouped them by color, making it easier to choose a variety of nutrients while offering up food with eye-appeal. Here are some of the health benefits of the vitamins and nutrients listed above:
Anthocyanin – a powerful antioxidant that aids in reducing risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer, stroke, and helps boost memory
Beta-carotene – a powerful antioxidant that aids in reducing risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer
Cruciferous foods – high in vitamin A, vitamin C, Folic Acid (which aids in preventing some birth defects), aid in reducing certain types of cancer, heart disease
Flavonoids – rich in antioxidants, aid in reducing risk of heart disease, cancer, also may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and diabetes
Lycopene – a powerful antioxidant that aids in neutralizing free radicals, may aid in reducing risks of heart disease, certain types of cancer
Quercetin – a powerful antioxidant that aids in neutralizing free radicals
Potassium – proper levels of potassium aid in maintaining normal blood pressure, reducing risk of stroke and heart disease, arthritis, and some types of cancer
Vitamin A – maintains specialized tissue health, promotes normal development of teeth and soft and skeletal tissue
Vitamin C – helps protect against heart disease, certain types of cancers, and boosts the immune system
Vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant that aids in reducing risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer
Vitamin K – helps blood clot normally, supports increased bone density, rich in antioxidants that help fight free radicals
This is just a partial list of all the nutrients provided by a well-balanced consumption of fruits and vegetables.
**I am not a medical professional. Always consult your physician concerning your dietary needs.
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!