~ 032212 The 10 Best Ways to Add Color to Your Diet: Tasting the Rainbow Is An Easy Way to Boost Your Health

~ 032212 The 10 Best Ways to Add Color to Your Diet: Tasting the Rainbow Is An Easy Way to Boost Your Health
Mary Squillace
Mclatchy-Tribune News Service

Filling your plate with colorful fruits and veggies doesn't just make your plate look pretty - it also provides antioxidants and other health-enhancing vitamins and minerals. "We get different nutrients from different foods, so eating a variety of produce in different colors is one of the easiest ways to ensure we're getting a full range of nutrients," explains Vandana Sheth, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, one quick way to determine whether you're eating a balanced meal is to check your plate for at least three different hues. Here, 10 bright ideas for loading up on foods that fight cancer, boost vision, and improve your health in other ways.

Red: Beets

A crimson tint indicates that a fruit or vegetable may promote a healthy heart, boost vision and immunity, and cut down on cancer risks. Beets are a prime example of the healing power of the color red. Their hue comes from betacyanins, a substance linked to fighting cancer in laboratory mice. The vegetable also contains nitrate, which may lower your blood pressure and can halt dementia in older adults by improving blood flow to the brain.

Red: Cherries

The antioxidant-packed ruby spheres are more than just an ice cream topping. Bing cherries may lower your risk for arthritis, heart disease and cancer by fighting inflammation, according to a USDA study. If you'd rather drink your nutrients, guzzle a tart cherry juice. What's more, a 2010 study found that the beverage may help you sleep better with its high melatonin content. It may also reduce muscle damage in athletes, reports research from London.

Red: Tomato

A tomato's rosy complexion comes from lycopene, a phytochemical that helps protect against prostate cancer. While most fruits and vegetables lose some of their antioxidant mojo once they're cooked, cooking tomatoes actually enhances their lycopene content, according to Sheth. This means that even when tomatoes are out of season you can reap their health benefits through tomato sauce or tomato paste.

Orange: Sweet Potatoes

Orange fruits and veggies get their color from beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that's converted to vitamin A in our bodies. The substance may protect the skin from UV rays and help prevent vision loss. Sweet potatoes are no exception. In addition to delivering nearly four times your recommended vitamin A allowance, a serving supply you with blood-pressure-friendly potassium, immunity-boosting vitamin C and slimming fiber. Orange you glad you know?

Yellow: Pineapple

The tropical fruit delivers 131 percent of your daily vitamin C intake and also supplies you with bromelain, an enzyme that helps with indigestion, reduces inflammation and may prevent heart disease, Sheth says. Mounting research also indicates that bromelain has cancer-fighting properties.

Green: Broccoli

Emerald veggies like broccoli and bok choy support a healthy immune system. These cruciferous veggies contain a protein that helps intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) - immune cells that line and protect the gut and skin - function properly, according to 2011 research published in Cell. Broccoli's also a great way to get your green on because it contains relatively high levels of protein (3 grams per cup), vitamin C (135 percent of your daily value), and vitamin K (116 percent of your daily value).

Green: Spinach

When it comes to greens, the deeper and more intense the color, the more nutrition you'll get, Sheth says. Choose kale, spinach or collard greens rather than iceberg lettuce. Popeye's favorite will hit you with significant helpings of calcium, potassium and vitamins A and K. Not to mention, the nitrate in spinach can help muscles perform more efficiently, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Blue: Blueberries

Natural foods with a blue or purple glow contain anthocyanins, a phytonutrient known to be a superfood, according to Sheth. "These foods decrease our risk for macular degeneration and prevent certain cancers and strokes," she says. A higher intake of anthocyanins has also been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Blueberries are a superstar in their own right, serving up more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy doses of vitamins K and C, fiber and manganese.

Purple: Grapes

Grapes possess an antioxidant trump card, of sorts: resveratrol. Many studies indicate that the substance may chip away at a number of different types of cancers and prevent against heart disease. To boot, the nutritious orbs may also prevent age-related blindness, according to research from California Table Grape Commission. They'll also give you substantial amounts of vitamins K and C.

White: Banana

You may not think pale foods fit this technicolour food scheme, but white fruits and veggies can be beneficial to your health. "More and more people say to stay away from white foods, but naturally occurring white foods give us good nutrients," says Sheth. In fact fruits with white flesh - such as bananas, apples, pears and cauliflower - may keep strokes away, according to a Dutch study published in the journal Stroke. Bananas' concentration of B6 and potassium - which can boost your mood and help your heart, respectively - make them a solid achromatic choice.


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