From Jordan’s Desk: Be Sure to Eat Your Colors
Part of the Perfect Weight America plan includes "eating your colors"--and that includes a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits.
Have you ever noticed the lack of color in a fast food meal? Once you get your sandwich out of the wrapper, a fast food burger with French fries is monochromatic beige. It’s the same thing with a fast food chicken dinner; the chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn are mainly lighter and darker hues of brown with a dash of pale yellow.
Let’s face it: you usually don’t find many colorful foods in fast food restaurants, unless you order a salad. Contrast this with a visit to a farmer’s market or a produce department in an organic food supermarket where fruits and veggies with vibrant reds, greens, oranges, purples, and yellows are on display. Big difference.
Whether you’re cooking at home or ordering out in a restaurant, you will usually not go wrong eating foods exhibiting vibrant, radiant colors. Did you know that many of the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables come from phytochemicals like anthocyanins, phenolics, lutein, indoles, flavonoids, and carotenoids like lycopene? And while these names might be tricky to say and even trickier to spell, these nutrients help the body maintain memory function, cardiovascular health, and a healthy weight.
Pigments with health-promoting properties color every fruit and vegetable, and their benefits are unique to each color. For instance, blueberries are colored by the phytochemical anthocyanin. Green vegetables owe their pigment to chlorophyll. Another phytochemical known as lycopene is the reason why tomatoes and watermelons are red. The nutrient fucoxanthin is a pigment that makes brown seaweed brown. All these phytochemical pigments offer antioxidant protection as well as other health benefits.
Adding color to your plate means ordering a spring salad instead of French fries to go with your sandwich. And when you’re making a sandwich for a school or work lunch, add a leaf of lettuce and a thick slice of tomato to your turkey, tuna, or chicken. Shredded carrots bolster the look of a tuna salad, and fruit salad with green grapes, red raspberries, and white banana add a pleasant ending to any meal.
So…what color is your diet? For some of you, it’s been beiges and browns—the colors of restaurant foods and frozen dinners. If that’s you, then try adding these colors to your diet:
- Red: tomatoes and tomato sauces, raspberries, apples, strawberries, pomegranates, cherries, peppers, radishes, and watermelon
- Purple-blue: plums, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, beets, and eggplant
- Oranges: oranges, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, carrots, winter squash, apricots, peppers, and mangoes
- Orange-yellow: tangerines, oranges, peaches, papayas, pineapples, peppers, and nectarines
- Yellow: lemons, corn, peppers, and yellow squash
- Green: salad greens, kiwi, broccoli, avocados, Brussels sprouts, chives, green onions, parsley, cilantro, green beans, spinach, peppers, Swiss chard, and kale
- White-green: celery, asparagus, honeydew, and pears
- White: mushrooms, onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, shallots, bananas, artichokes, and bamboo shoots
And that’s only a partial listing of all the colorful foods! It should, however, give you a great start on adding more color to your diet.
For some great “colorful” recipes, be sure to check out this week’s recipe section.