20 October 2015 The Colorful World of Fruits and Vegetables

While tracking your food intake on MyNetDiary, you are likely tuned into the food quantities you eat and the number of daily calories you consume. Yes, that is very smart for weight management. For optimal health, also consider the quality of the foods you choose to fit into your calorie goal. One simple approach is to aim for a diet that includes a colorful array of fruits and vegetables.

Think of antioxidants as the body’s soldiers that fight the free radicals that attack healthy cells, causing disease and aging. Scientists have discovered thousands of antioxidants in foods. There is thought to be a complicated network of antioxidants in foods that interact in the body’s cells. For example, some antioxidants act to regenerate others. Therefore, it is not advisable to rely on single substances, but rather, to include an array of them in foods.

As simple as it sounds, scientists have identified important disease-crushing antioxidants according to the color of a fruit or vegetable. Plant foods have been color-coded into seven categories: red, red/purple, orange, orange/yellow, green, and white/green. For example, beta-carotene, found in red, orange and yellow pigments, has being studied for the prevention of lung and prostate cancer. Lycopene, a cancer-fighting substance, is found in red pigment. Lutein, a substance found in green leafy vegetables, is selectively taken up into the eye for protection against macular degeneration.

Why not take just antioxidant supplements?

Antioxidant supplements are not a great idea for several reasons. For one, extensive studies have not shown a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases when individuals took supplements. In fact, in some cases, subjects taking high dose supplements actually showed an increased disease risk, such as studies showing beta-carotene caused increased lung cancer risk. Another reason supplements are not advised is that at high doses, supplements may interact with medications. Bottom line: eat a wide variety of antioxidants in colorful, fresh foods to get the most benefit with the least risk.

Some examples of color-coding meals:

  • spinach salad with red grapes, carrots, and jicama
  • sautéed kale, mushrooms, red peppers and garlic with dessert of blueberries and sliced kiwi
  • soup made with tomatoes, corn, onions, cabbage, and eggplant
  • roasted purple potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and beets
  • fruit salad made with watermelon, pineapple, bananas, green grapes and blueberries

Not only will your health benefit from the palette of colorful antioxidants, your meals will look prettier!

References:

  1. https://fnic.nal.usda.gov/food-composition/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-and-beta-carotene
  2. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684512/

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables

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