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Eat Right With Color

Posted Mar 16 2011 7:00am
March is National Nutrition Month ! A month that is recognized by the American Dietetic Association to help promote and campaign for good nutrition – adopting healthy eating patterns, making good quality food choices, and creating healthy lifestyle behaviors. March 9th was the fourth annual Registered Dietitian Day so I hope you showed that special RD in your life some extra love.

The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is Eat Right With Color. I love this theme because I think it is so important to not only eat right but to be aware of the variety of foods in your diet, specifically with fruits and vegetables. In this case, variety means color. Do you eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies? Do you stick to one or two colors with your produce? Or, do you hope that a leprechaun with a pot of gold will end up on the edge of your plate because you create a rainbow of colors at meal times? If there is no wishing of leprechauns at your meal, chances are you are not getting a wide variety of colors in your diet.

Why do we talk about colors anyway? Isn’t just important to make sure we are eating enough fruits and vegetables regardless of the color? Of course, we should always strive to increasing # of servings of fruits and vegetables eaten per day. Fruits and vegetables, regardless of their colors, do great things for us:

  • Full of fiber – Fiber keeps us full, aids in weight loss, lowers cholesterol, and promotes regularity
  • Low in calories and fat – You can rest assured eating too many fruits and veggies is not going to add inches to your waistline
  • Packed with essential vitamins and minerals - Vitamins and minerals help keep us energized, healthy, and in tip-top shape

So if you’re getting in your servings of fruits and veggies, why does it matter which colors they are?

Each color group of fruits and vegetables contains one or two nutrients that are specific only to that color. These color specific nutrients are known as phytochemicals. Remember my post about phytochemicals ? Phytochemicals are nutrients that are not essential to growth and functioning like vitamins and minerals are. Phytochemicals are like super vitamins that help above and beyond the every day functions of the body. These super vitamins help to prevent chronic diseases such as cancers, and heart disease. Some phytochemicals are classified as antioxidants which also help to improve memory and reverse the aging process. Reversing the aging process and preventing chronic disease, are you sold yet on phytochemicals?!

Now that you know why including various colors in the diet is important, let’s discuss what the various color groups are and which foods fall into which categories.



Red Group

  • Contains lycopene which help prevent cancer, and anthocyanins which are antioxidants
  • Choose from apples, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, watermelon, beets, red peppers, rhubarb

Blue/Purple group

  • Also contains the antioxidant anthocyanin
  • Choose from eggplant, blueberries, purple grapes, plums, purple cabbage, blackberries

Yellow/Orange group

  • Contain carotenoids, specifically beta-carotene or Vitamin A which helps maintain healthy eyes and eyesight
  • Citrus foods contain Vitamin C, an antioxidant
  • Choose from: oranges, butternut squash, summer squash, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, lemon, peaches, mangoes, cantaloupe.

Green group

  • Chlorophyll is the pigment found in green produce
  • Contains lutein which helps promote healthy vision and indoles which help to prevent cancer
  • Choose from: leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, cucumbers, limes, green grapes, green bell peppers, kiwi, artichokes, asparagus, green apples

White group

  • Anthoxanthin is the pigment found in white produce
  • Contains allicin which helps lower blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer
  • Choose from: cauliflower, bananas, garlic, mushrooms, onion, turnips, potatoes, parsnips

Make these five color groups a part of your healthy diet. Think about the past few days and what your intake was like. How many color groups were part of your past few days of eating? Did you hit all 5? 4? 3? 2? 1? If you were only able to cover a couple groups, don’t worry! Now is the time to make a conscious effort to increase the variety of colors in your diet. Make a goal to try produce from each color group. Aim to eat fruits and vegetables of each color group throughout your week. Keep a tally for yourself to help keep track of your progress.

Make a rainbow on your plate of chronic-disease fighting phytonutrients! Eat right with color. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and find a pot of gold at the edge of your plate :)

Peace, love, and food,

Kara

What colors have been a part of your diet this week? Make any colorful meals?


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