How Colorful Is Your Diet?

HowColorfulIsYourDietBy Susan Brown

Highly pigmented fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients.  Phytonutrients are natural biochemical components which work together with vitamins, minerals and fiber to promote good health.  Phytonutrients contain antioxidants that protect your cells from disease-causing free radicals.  Studies show that eight out of ten Americans fall short on their phytonutrient intake which means they face a nutrient deficit.  Those who eat generous amounts of a variety of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are more likely to have a reduced risk of developing chronic disease including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and some types of cancer

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, a more colorful plate benefits your health and your waistline.  Adding 3 – 5 servings of fruits and vegetables to your daily meals or snacks increases nutrients and fiber essential to good health without adding a significant amount of calories and fat.  All produce forms count including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.  Frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen at their peak of ripeness, are just as nutritious as fresh.  To put a colorful diet in perspective, eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day.  Variety is very important as each food brings its own health benefits to the table.  As a rule, the brighter the color of the food, the more concentrated its nutrition.  When choosing colorful foods, stick with whole foods and avoid foods that get their color artificially through processing and added dyes. 

Here are some very good reasons to add color to your diet along with just a sampling of food color choices: 

RED – Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene, an effective and powerful antioxidant.  Lycopene belongs to the carotenoid family which includes beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.  Lycopene’s antioxidant actions help maintain the strength, thickness and fluidity of cell membranes, which are vital in the prevention of disease.  Lycopene aids in the prevention of plaque formation in the arteries, inhibits age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, prevents aging of the skin and is a natural internal sun protectant.  Strawberries contain folate which aids heart health and decreases the risk of certain birth defects.  Cherries are a great source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium, which help maintain blood pressure.  Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins that prevent bacteria from sticking to bladder and stomach walls reducing chance of illness.  Kidney beans contain B vitamins, which are key for neurological function.

  • Tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, red peppers, beets, pomegranates, cherries, wild salmon, kidney beans, red apples, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries.

ORANGE – Orange fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients that are good for your skin, eye and heart health.  Foods rich in carotenoids have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers including lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast and skin cancers.  Beta-Carotene, a powerful antioxidant, can help delay cognitive aging and protect skin from sun damage.  Beta-carotene is a precursor for vitamin A which is important for night vision, neutralization of free radicals and the health of your immune system.  Orange foods are chock full of vitamin C which boosts the immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease and helps rebuild skin collagen.  Pumpkins contain zinc, a mineral essential for proper brain function, reproductive health and wound healing.  Sweet potatoes, carrots and citrus fruits are loaded with potassium which aids muscle and nerve function and helps maintain the proper electrolyte and acid-base balance in your body. 

  • Cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, tangerines, papaya, mangoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, orange peppers, and carrots.

YELLOW –  Yellow vegetables such as corn contain the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein which work together to block harmful rays that can cause eye damage over time.  Pineapple contains bromelain which aids digestion, absorption and elimination.  Yellow bell peppers are packed with vitamin C necessary to produce carnitine, a  compound in muscles that converts fat into energy.  Yellow fruits and vegetables reduce age-related macular degeneration, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, encourage alkaline balance and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones. 

  • Yellow peppers, lemons, yellow squash, garbanzo beans, butternut squash, apricots, pears,  nectarines, sweet corn, bananas and pineapple.

PURPLE/BLUE – Purple foods are colored by a pigment called anthocyanin, a strong and protective antioxidant which can help reduce the risk of cancer,  improve memory and assist with healthy aging.  Purple fruits and vegetables are also packed with flavonoids known to be one of the most powerful phytochemicals.  Flavonoids provide heart-healthy benefits to the cardiovascular system, lowering LDL cholesterol, raising HDL cholesterol, and improving memory storage.  Lavender is associated with increased blood circulation and is helpful in reducing insomnia and anxiety, as well as treating skin ailments such as psoriasis, acne, wrinkles, cuts and burns.  Purple basil, which has high doses of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium,  is beneficial for the hair, skin and eyes. 

  • Berries, grapes, eggplant, plums, figs, raisins, purple basil, purple potatoes, lavender, and red wine (in moderation).

GREEN – Plant foods derive their green pigments from chlorophyll, a naturally occurring molecule.  Chlorophyll delivers a continuous energy transfusion into the bloodstream, replenishing and increasing red blood cells.  Chlorophyll is not only a powerful oxygenator, it strengthens our immune systems and enhances overall wellbeing.  Chlorophyll is known to improve the health of the circulatory, digestive, immune and detoxification systems of the body.  There are many delicious green foods all containing tremendous health benefits.  Green-hued foods contain EGCG, a potent antioxidant, plus lutein, zeaxanthin and isoflavones.  These phytonutrients are beneficial for eye health, cancer prevention, wound healing and gum tissue health.  Spinach contains vitamin A which helps protect skin from sun damage and ensures healthy cell turn over. 

  • Honeydew, avocado, kiwi, limes, kale, collards, spinach, tea, peppers, peas, grapes, green apples, asparagus and broccoli.

WHITE – White foods contain the phytonutrients allicin and quercetin that may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.  Leeks are packed with inulin, a plant fiber that has shown to increase calcium absorption.  Onions contain both sulphur, a powerful antibiotic, and quercetin, an anti-inflammatory agent.  White potatoes are high in vitamin B6 and potassium which support the cardiovascular system and aid in prevention of disease. 

  • Garlic, onions, leeks, cauliflower, potatoes, fennel, white turnip, white corn, white peaches, ginger and mushrooms. 

The FDA recommends 3 -5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit each day.  One serving of vegetables equals:

  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice

One serving of fruit equals:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear
  • 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Following these guidelines, it is not difficult to get your full servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Most of us tend to eat the same foods regularly.  Next time you go grocery shopping, try a fruit or vegetable that you have not had before rather than focusing on what is familiar to you.  When you explore new foods, you are introducing different nutrients and antioxidants to your body.   To reap the most health rewards from your fruit and vegetable consumption, simply think in terms of naturally bright-hued foods. Take your plate from monotone to an artist’s palette and eat your full range of colors every day. 

Supplements for phytonutrient balance:

Greens by Quantum Nutrition Labs Nature’s amazing live-sourced super nutrition formula for optimal health and rejuvenation. Our prized mix features our pristine Power Grass-Plus Blend™ (low-temperature, air-dried) coupled with Power Greens Blend™ for optimal effect. Vegan/vegetarian formula. 

Deeper Greens by Ortho Molecular Products –  Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is a unit value assigned by researchers to measure the antioxidant value of a given food.  Foods with a high ORAC value benefit the body by increasing plasma antioxidant levels.  Deeper Greens is formulated for excellent pH and fiber values, and contains a high ORAC value to meet the National Cancer Institute’s recommended 5-a-day intake of fruits and vegetables in a satisfying single serving.  Ortho Molecular’s Deeper Greens uses organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grasses where available. 

Organic Greens & Reds Powder by Douglas Laboratories –  Organic Greens and Reds powder is a healthful supplement containing a concentrated phytonutrient blend of grasses, vegetables and botanicals.  This product contains a wide assortment of organic vegetables and fruits that provide potent antioxidant protection.  In addition, fiber from flax seed and digestive enzymes are included to support overall gastrointestinal health.

Sweet Wheat Capsules by Brightcore Nutrition –  Rich in minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium and potassium and packed with vitamins including A, B, C and E.  Sweet Wheat provides an array of nutritional benefits including a boost to the immune system, detoxification, strong and healthy hair, skin and nails, and a more restful night’s sleep.

Phytoganix by Metagenics –  A convenient, delicious way to get a diverse daily supply of phytonutrients from certified organic sources to support overall good health.  This highly nutritious, berry red formula provides superfruits such as antioxidant-rich raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, and lingonberries, herbs including spirulina, polyphenol-rich green tea, astragalus, and ginger, vitamin C-rich acerola extract and vegetables such as green cabbage, beets, carrots, and spinach.

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