Daily Archives: March 11, 2012

Crack the Color Code {Eating a Rainbow of Colors}

 
Have you ever wondered what the color of fresh fruits and vegetables reveal about their nutritional value?
 
Fruits and vegetables are filled with wonderful essential nutrients that our body needs such as vitamins and minerals. They also offer other nutrients such as  fiber, which is important for our digestive tract and phytochemicals and antioxidants which may offer many health benefits in fighting certain diseases.
 
Phytochemicals (pronounced: FIGHT-oh-CHEM-icals) are nature’s paintbrush, giving the plant their hue and some nutritional punch. Phytochemicals (phyto” meaning “plant”) are plant chemicals that are not essential nutrients in the  human body but scientists believe they may offer some potential health benefits to fight off certain diseases such as cancer. The antioxidants (also known as phytochemicals) may reduce the risk of certain cancers by helping our body neutralize free radicals which are harmful compounds that can damage our cells.
 
The goal is to eat a variety of colors when choosing produce so you get a wide variety of phytochemicals and their antioxidant benefits. Have fun and mix and match your colors to get your minimum recommended of 5 A DAY!
 
RED
Pomegranate Raspberry Beet Salad
 
Food Sources: The pigment found in cherries, cranberries, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate, red cabbage, red onions, and red grapes comes from a powerful red pigmented antioxidant known as anthocyanins.
 
Watermelon Granita
Watermelon Granita
 
Lycopene is another red pigmented antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grape fruit to name a few.
 
Some of the possible health benefits:
  • Helps protect cells from free radical damage
  • Lycopene plays a role in prevention of certain cancers, such as prostate, pancreas, breast, cervix and lung.
  • Lycopene and other carotenoids (see carotenoids below) may be used as oral sun block and contribute to the healthy skin
  • plays a role in prevention of cardiovascular disease,
  • Eye health, may prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (loss of vision).
 Oranges/Yellows:
Mango Orange Carrot smoothie
 
Food Sources: The orange/yellow pigment found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupe, yellow and orange bell pepper, peaches/apricots, papaya, and mangoes comes from Carotenoids.
 
The colors created by carotenoids range from orange to yellows and even some red. Carotenoids are also found in dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach but are masked by the intense color of chlorophyll. The carotenoids most abundant in our diet come from plant souces, these compounds include:  alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. However, alpha-carotene, beta-caroten, and beta-cryptoxanthin can be converted by the body into vitamin A and are known as proformed vitamin A. Not to be confused with preformed vitamin A which comes from animal sources, such as liver, fat from milk, and egg yolks.
Lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene are also abundant in our diet but have no vitamin A activity.  All three compounds may contribute to the prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration. (2)
 
Some of the possible health benefits of eating orange/yellow pigmented foods:
  • Protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals
  • Skin and cellular
  • Bone metabolism
  • Vision health
  • Provide a source of vitamin A
  • Support healthy immune system
  • Help your reproductive system function
Green
 
Quinoa Tabouli Salad - gluten free
 
Food Sources:  The vibrant green pigment found in spinach, kale, asparagus, boroccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy, green beans, peas, Swiss chard, and turnip greens come from chlorophyll. Green fruits and vegetables, notably dark leafy greens are packaged with large amounts of vitamins and minerals such as; vitamins A ,C, and K,  potassium, folate, dietary fiber and some compounds from the carotenoid group. They also contain iron (non heme form), calcium and some omega 3 fatty acids.
 
Some of the possible health benefits:
  • Vision health ~ protect eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Heart health ~rich in potassium, may lower high blood pressure from eliminating excess salt in body.
  • Help aide in weight-loss since dark leafy vegetales are high in fiber and have a high water content.
  • Vitamin K plays a role in bone health and blood clotting. If you are taking a blood thinner, such as warfarin (Coumadin) check with your doctor to monitor your blood levels and medication dosage.
Blue/Purple
Blueberry Spinach Smoothie
 
Food Sources: purple grapes, plums, prunes, blueberries, black berries, purple eggplant, purple fleshed potatoes, and purple cabbage. The purple/blue group contains anthocyanins as found in the red group. Anthocyanins may offer anti-aging health benefits.
 
Possible health benefits: 
  • Purple/blue/red hued foods such as in berries are rich in an antioxidant, resveratrol and ellagitannin, offer heart health benefits.
  •  
White/Brown/Tan:
Banana Walnut Muffins ~ gluten free
 
Food Sources: cauliflower, banana’s, brown skinned potatoes with white flesh, mushrooms, onions, garlic, white peaches, dates, brown pears, parsnips, turnips and white corn. Anthoxanthins are found in plants that exhibit a white/yellow hue or a “colorless” pigment. Garlic and onions belong to the allium family, which offers some heart healthy benefits.
 
Possible Health Benefits:
  • Many fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, found in banana’s, potatoes, and dates. A diet rich in potassium may help reduce blood pressure.
  • Allicin, found in garlic may lower LDL (bad cholesterol) as well as reduce the development of atherosclerosis.
  • Shiitake mushrooms contain powerful antioxidants such as eritadenine, and L-ergothioneine, both are important in heart health. Scientists believe shitake mushrooms may lower homocystein levels and reduce plaque buildup.
 
References:
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