Julie A. Wilczynski: Fill Your Plate with the Colors of the Rainbow
July 01, 2012 5:37 PM
by Julie A. Wilczynski
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Let’s take some time to take a color inventory of our groceries.

What colors do you see in your fridge, on your counter and in your pantry? Is your answer beige, tan, ecru and buff? If it is, you are not alone.

A recent study on nutrition finds that most of us regularly eat only a limited number of foods. Sadly we are limited in our variety of foods. Of those that we do choose to eat they are mainly colorless carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, pastas, rice and potatoes.

In choosing to eat this way we are not only packing on the pounds, we are also ignoring other nutrient-packed foods that are essential for health. Our bodies need forty different nutrients each day and if our core group of foods is small we are preparing ourselves for disaster.

Instead of grabbing for those colorless foods we have become comfortable with opt for colorful foods and strive to eat from every color of the rainbow each day.

There are five color categories. The categories are blue/purple, yellow/orange, red, white and green.

Different colorful fruits and vegetables provide the body with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals necessary to stay healthy.

Phytochemicals, also called antioxidants, are vitamins and other nutrients that protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Studies have shown that antioxidants help prevent the free radical damage that is associated with cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants can be found in most fruits and vegetables but also culinary herbs and medicinal herbs can contain high levels of antioxidants.

Many plum varieties fall in the blue/purple color category, along with blueberries, eggplant and blackberries. The produce in this category contains varying amounts of health-promoting phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics, which may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits.

Produce in the yellow/orange group — like peaches and nectarines, as well as pineapples, mangos and oranges — contain various amounts of antioxidants including vitamin C, carotenoids and bioflavinoids, now being studied for their health benefits.

Another color group, red — which includes the reds found in the bright skins of peaches, nectarines and many plums, along with cherries, strawberries and watermelon — provides phytochemicals including lycopene and anthocyanins.

The white color group, which includes summerwhite, or white fleshed, peaches and nectarines, mushrooms, onions and bananas, feature another group of phytochemicals called allicin.

In the green color group are some of the more rare green-skinned plum varieties, but more notably avocados, honeydew melon and cucumbers, which provide various amounts of phytochemicals including lutein and indoles.

Eating for color and filling your plate with the colors of the rainbow optimizes the health benefits that can be derived by eating nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. Peaches, plums and nectarines — which can be found in all of the color groups — are often hailed for their heart-healthy qualities and cancer-fighting attributes. Whether they’re eaten fresh or added to meals, these wonderful fruits deliver vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy body — and are a juicy, delicious addition to any menu.

Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet is much easier than most people think. Adding sliced fruit to your cereal or to a salad, for example, or combining peaches, plums or nectarines and yogurt in a blender to make a smoothie are simple, quick solutions ensuring you make sure you’re eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Optimally you should strive to take in 50 to 70 percent of all of your nutrition raw, raw fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds. If that seems daunting for you, strive to eat something — anything — at each meal that is raw. Eat, eat colorful and enjoy your rainbow filled plates, bowls and meals.

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