The cornerstone of any good diet begins with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Speaking of which, are you consuming enough?
The cornerstone of any good diet begins with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Health professionals agree that eating produce has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. But also high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Groups of vegetables
However eating produce goes beyond just eating kale salads every day. The health benefits come when a variety of colors. These include reds, orange/yellows, greens, blues/purples and white/tan. Most noteworthy, they all are consumed on a daily basis. Each group contains thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients that provide a variety of nutritional benefits and contribute to the various colors of foods.
Red Group of Veggies
The red group – which includes tomatoes, strawberries and red bell peppers, for example – contains heart-healthy lycopene that may be effective in managing high blood pressure. Beta-carotene and bioflavonoids found in sweet potatoes, butternut squash and mangoes are powerful antioxidants found in the orange/yellow group. They help our bodies maintain good skin health and boost our immune system.
Green Group of Veggies
Leafy greens, creamy avocados and other green-pigmented produce are loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found to be beneficial for maintaining good eye health. The high amounts of anthocyanins and phenolics in the blue and purple group help control inflammation and may even reduce our risk for certain types of cancers.
White Group of Veggies
The white/tan group may not be as vivid and colorful as the other four, but they pack a mighty punch too. Onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, and the fleshy whites of pears and apples are high in glucosinolates and polyphenols, which may play a protective role against cancers and heart disease.
A Bit of Studies
When consuming produce, keep in mind that it’s not always about eating fresh. Studies have shown that the lycopene in canned tomato products is actually more available to our bodies than what is found in the raw variety. Frozen, dried and 100% juices are other forms that are just as beneficial as canned and fresh produce.
What’s cool about eating produce by way of colors is that it allows each of us to choose our own favorite produce. My red group may look entirely different than yours and that’s OK. We are still both benefitting from the phytonutrients. Eating by color also takes into account the seasonality of produce. Butternut squash and pumpkin provide beta-carotene in the fall months while cantaloupe and peaches are summertime picks.
Do You Consume Enough Vegetables?
As you think about your own eating habits, are you mixing it up? Are you consuming produce from each of the five color groups on a daily basis? Strive to get the most bang for your buck by bringing the fabulous five together – working as one team.
Looking for some fresh recipes? You can find many of them here.