Taste the Rainbow
Make your meals a masterpiece by using the full spectrum of
fruits and vegetables
YOU KNOW IT'S IMPORTANT to eat your greens, but
what about your reds, your yellows, and even your blacks and
The USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that most of
us should double the amount of fruits and vegetables we eat every
day, because they're rich in vital nutrients. Eating a broad range
of produce from the full color spectrum helps ensure proper
nutrition and can stave off disease.
Get ready to color your menu-reading the benefits of each food
hue below is sure to brighten your day.
The body converts the provitamin beta carotene- found in
carrots, yams, pumpkins and corn-into vitamin A, which helps with
vision, immunity and even the production of red blood cells, which
transport oxygen throughout the body. So while your grandparents
might have overstated the carrot-vision connection, they weren't
too far off the mark.
The pigment that makes tomatoes red is a compound called
lycopene, which has twice the antioxidant activity of beta
carotene. It's also found in watermelons and papayas. Without
antioxidants, free radicals can damage cells through oxidation, in
the same way oxidizing rust damages metal. While long-term studies
are still under way, lycopene also has been linked to a lower risk
of cancers in the lungs, prostate and stomach. Want to maximize its
goodness? The antioxidant is more readily absorbed with a small
amount of oil or fat.
The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for
Cancer Research reported that leafy, dark green vegetables such as
spinach, chard, kale and collard greens "probably" protect against
several types of cancers, such as of the mouth, throat and stomach.
They also contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which
specifically seem to protect against cataracts and macular
The anti-inflammatory power of anthocyanins, which make
blueberries blue, helps keep blood pumping smoothly and prevents
hardening of the arteries, according to an article in the January/
February issue of Psychology Today. Anthocyanins have also been
linked to a lower risk of age-related degenerative diseases, such
as osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease.
Eggplant is ranked among the top 10 vegetables for antioxidants,
thanks to a high concentration of phenolic acid. And monoterpenes
found in the distinctively colored vegetable-the color aubergine
takes its name from the French and British-English word for
"eggplant"-bind with cholesterol in the intestinal tract,
preventing it from entering the bloodstream. They've also been
shown to prevent breast, liver and lung cancers.
Diabetics and hypoglycemics can especially embrace their dark
side: The high fiber content of black beans prevents the spike in
blood sugar levels that can occur after eating. And the beans'
black coating contains at least eight kinds of anthocyanins, which
may prevent obesity and diabetes. (Read more about anthocyanins'
powers under "blue.") They're also found in black currants.
Think vitamin C only shows up in citrus fruit? Onions, leeks,
jicama and parsnips are all good sources of this essential vitamin,
which promotes healing. The allium vegetables (onions, shallots,
leeks, garlic) also contain organosulfur compounds, thought to
protect against cancer.
-By Sam Mittelsteadt