Eat away those winter blues by filling your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables. Not only are they a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they also will provide your body with powerful antioxidants. It is important to eat a variety of colors, because often each color is associated with a different antioxidant.
Below are some of the commonly used colors of food and their benefits.
Oranges and yellows contain the antioxidant and phytonutrient carotenoids. Foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and peppers are abundant in carotenoids, which may protect your body from various cancers and the effects of aging. It is important to note that the carotenoid, beta-carotene, is fat soluble, meaning adding it with healthy fats benefit its absorption.
Greens contain the antioxidants and phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts are part of this group. As with the orange and yellow foods, these foods may help reduce the effects of aging, protect the body from cancers and prevent blockages from occurring in the arteries of the neck. These foods also contain important vitamins and minerals like calcium and folate. These nutrients are better absorbed by the body after being lightly cooked.
Reds contain the antioxidant and phytonutrient lycopene. Foods like tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya and peppers are part of this group. Lycopene is better absorbed after being cooked. This antioxidant may help prevent the development of heart disease and several types of cancers, particularly prostate cancer.
Blues and purples contain the antioxidant and phytonutrient anthocyanin. Foods like blueberries, grapes, beets, red cabbage and plums are part of this group. The nutrients are protective against several forms of cancer and may help prevent heart disease.
Whites contain the antioxidant and phytonutrient allicin. Yes, even garlic and onions contain powerful phytochemicals. They may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Foods like garlic and ginger have additional antibiotic and antifungal properties.
As spring marches in very slowly here in the Midwest, much to our dismay, we can hasten its arrival by adding more color to our plate. Our chance of meeting the daily required nutrients is better when we add a wide variety of colors to our plate. After all, it’s going to get us fit and ready for all the long awaited spring activities.
Vasanthi Prabhaker is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for the Centegra Diabetes Center. To make an appointment with a registered dietitian call 877-CENTEGRA.