By Rennie Aranda – Skinny Gene Nutritionist
You have likely heard the statement, “Eat your vegetables” since childhood. Recent national data show why that is good advice. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that are important for good health. The best way to get all the essential nutrients you need is by eating 5 to 9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day to stay healthy and fit. Different colors of fruits and vegetables represent different flavors and different disease-fighting nutrients that are important for good health.
Here’s what you need to know to eat the rainbow…
Why Fruits and Veggies?
Fruits and vegetables are nature’s functional foods, which are foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition, such as help in preventing disease. Healthful qualities in fruits and vegetables that allow them to provide health benefits include antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that help protect the body from diseases such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and more. The deeper the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more powerful the protection. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables allow the different compounds in them to work together to fight illnesses. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help in controlling and maintaining a healthy weight since it is low in calories and sodium, high in water content, contain no cholesterol, and provides a good source of dietary fiber that satisfies hunger and aids in digestion (also prevents constipation).
Color Me Healthy!
Fruits and vegetables come in many different shapes, sizes, and appetizing colors that each protect body tissues in its own way. So power up your plate with a variety of colors and choices within each color category: red, orange/yellow, green, blue/purple/black, and white/tan/brown.
- Red: fruits and vegetables rich in this color help aintain a healthy heart, memory function, urinary tract health, and lowers risk of some cancers.
- Orange/Yellow: these fruits and veggies help maintain heart, vision, and immune system health, as well as lower the risk of some cancers. High levels of vitamin C and folic acid are found in these colored fruits and vegetables.
- Green: Fruits and veggies of this color decreases the risk of some cancers as well as heart disease, maintain vision health, protect against birth defects and keep red blood cells, bones, and teeth strong.
- Blue/Purple/Black: these fruits and veggies contain antioxidants that help lower the risk of some cancers, promote healthy aging, and improve urinary tract health, memory function and heart health.
- White/Tan/Brown: a diet rich in these colored fruits and vegetables will enjoy the benefits of lower cancer risk and heart health maintenance. These fruits and vegetables typically include health promoting substances such as folic acid, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.
As you can see, eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables makes meals look and taste great while improving the immune system, slows aging, and lowers risk for heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses, as well as providing other benefits.
How Much is Enough?
A person’s recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings depend on age, sex, physical activity levels, and calorie needs. Ensure better health by eating at least 5 – 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (or half the plate). What exactly is a serving size? Generally a serving size is about 1 medium piece of fruit (such as an apple or orange), 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables, ½ cup of fruit or vegetable (raw, cooked, canned, or frozen), ¼ cup of dried fruit, or ¾ cup (6oz) of 100% juice.
Color My Plate! (Recipes & ideas that include a rainbow of fruits and vegetables)
Summer Vegetable Kabobs
Serve this colorful, fun treat from the grill at your next barbecue or gathering. Pick a colorful variety of your favorite vegetables (zucchini, squash, eggplant, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms, just to name a few). You can lightly brush olive oil and your favorite seasonings on the vegetables or use your favorite marinade. . Cut vegetables thick so they will stay on skewers and lie flat to ensure even cooking. Thread vegetables onto skewers and grill on medium-high heat (350°F – 400°F) and grill, covered with grill lid. Grill time for each vegetable ranges from 3-10 minutes. (Keep in mind zucchini and squash take slightly longer, about 7-10 minutes, so they might be better paired together). You’ll know when skewers are ready when vegetables are slightly charred and tender. Enjoy!
Here are some more menu ideas to incorporate fruits and vegetables in your daily eating habits:
Sauté ½ red bell pepper, ½ onion, 2 shitake mushrooms, 2 cloves of garlic. Add 3 cups leafy greens (such as spinach leaves) and 1–3 eggs. (With more veggies added, just one egg can be enough!) Cook until the eggs are done and serve with a side of orange slices.
Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with sprouts, lettuce, tomato slices, avocado and grated carrots. Serve with a 2-cup salad made with romaine lettuce and raw cauliflower, broccoli and garbanzo beans drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette or light dressing of your choice.
Spinach salad topped with black olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and cauliflower. Add beans or chicken if you like for added protein. Toss with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle fresh parsley, chopped, on top.
Grilled chicken breast or black beans and brown rice (protein). Serve with a side of coleslaw made with green and red cabbage, red onions, and grated carrots.
Pasta primavera made with spinach fettuccini, sautéed red peppers, onions, garlic, zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms.
1 cup blueberries and cantaloupe
Jicama slices with salsa
Celery with hummus or peanut/almond butter
Pineapple chunks and banana slices
Raw veggies with your favorite dip. Hummus is a good choice.