The amazing health benefits of a colorful diet: Eating colored foods

Advice on eating a variety of bright and colorful foods (fruits and vegetables) to improve your health and reduce the risk of disease.

Your mom always told you to eat all of your fruits and vegetables, right?

Unfortunately, if you’re like many people, you didn’t always listen to mom’s advice. Today, most people still fall short of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendation of 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. In addition, recent research indicates that the quantity of fruits and vegetables that you eat is not the only thing that is important. Color matters, too!

The amazing health benefits of a colorful diet: Eating colored foods

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, brighter is better!

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients and disease fighting compounds. By eating a wide variety of colored fruits and vegetables each day, you can lower your chances of developing cancer, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your memory, eyesight, and overall health.

All fruits and vegetables are not created equal

It’s amazing what passes for a vegetable these days: French fries, iceberg lettuce— white, bland food that doesn’t have much nutritional value. But substitute a sweet potato for those French fries and change that iceberg lettuce to romaine, and suddenly you’ve added some colorful, healthy foods to your diet!

Colorful fruits and vegetables contain lypocene, beta carotene, antioxidants and/or phyto-chemicals. These are all important agents for good health and longevity. If you eat a wide variety of brightly colored foods, you can maximize your health benefits!

A Rainbow of Choices

You can paint a picture of good health for yourself by eating at least one or two foods from each color group below every day. The more you eat the better for you!

Reds- Many red foods, like tomatoes and grapefruit, contain lypocene which may help you reduce your risk of cancer. Other red foods, such as grapes and berries, contain antioxidants and flavanoids that help protect your cells from damage.

Examples of Red Foods: tomatoes, vegetable juice, watermelon, red and pink grapefruit, strawberries, beets, red bell peppers, cherries, cranberries, raspberries

Orange/Yellow- Many orange foods contain alpha or beta carotene, which helps your immune system and reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease and can help you to maintain healthy eyesight. Orange citrus fruits contain folate, a B vitamin, which is an important nutrient for pregnant women to help prevent birth defects.

Examples of Orange/Yellow Foods: carrots, mangoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apricots, oranges, lemons, papaya

Blue/Purple- These foods are chock full of antioxidants, which help reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease, and can help improve your memory function. Some blue foods also contain phytochemicals, natural plant compounds that help fight disease.

Examples of Blue/Purple Foods: purple grapes, grape juice, blueberries, blackberries, raisins, eggplant

Greens- Leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of folate. Green cruciferous vegetables can help prevent some cancers.

Examples of Green Foods: broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, avocado, honeydew, kiwi, asparagus, green pepper, zucchini

White- Many white foods contain allicin, which helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of some cancers and heart disease.

Examples of White Foods: onions, scallions, garlic, chives, cauliflower, mushrooms, white corn, bananas

It’s easy to sneak color into your diet!

Okay, so 5 to 9 servings sounds like a lot to you, not to mention the fact that you have to worry about the color of your food, too? It’s really not as hard as it seems. By adapting small changes to your eating habits, you can allow for a color coordinated diet.

Making a Colorful Plate

First, in order to make room for all your extra fruits and veggies, you need to cut out the empty calories and junk. Try to avoid processed foods and snacks. Next, use these tricks to sneak some healthy colors into your diet:

Add blueberries or bananas to your cereal or oatmeal.

Spread strawberry or raspberry jam on your toast.

Add green peppers, onions and tomatoes to your egg omelet.

Drink a glass of 100% cranberry juice or vegetable juice with your breakfast. Yes, this counts as a fruit/vegetable serving!

Add leafy green lettuce and tomatoes to your sandwich.

Make the most of a restaurant salad bar by serving yourself fruits and vegetables that you don’t usually eat at home. Try beets, raw cauliflower, kiwi, cantaloupe, fresh spinach, etc.

At snack time, avoid the cafeteria vending machine and eat an apple or an orange instead.

Put extra vegetables in homemade chili, stews, and tomato sauce.

Hold the pepperoni and top your pizza with extra tomato sauce (full of lypocene) and lots of mushrooms and other veggies.

Make a fruit salad for dessert, using a variety of brightly colored fruits.

Use these tips to begin adding bright colors to your meals today! You may just find that by changing the color palette of your diet, your health will also change– for the better!