The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Senior Outlook

March 3, 2010

Jennifer Foraker: Color diet with produce for good health

There is nothing more beautiful and tempting in a grocery store than the extensive array of colorful produce. Nearly every color of the rainbow is represented. What’s wonderful about this rich, kaleidoscope of produce is the payoff in terms of health.

Almost all fruits and vegetables are low in fat, full of fiber and loaded with natural chemicals, or phytonutrients, that can help prevent or even reverse many different diseases. When you choose the right balance of foods, that color can work everyday to improve your overall health.

The authors of “The Color Code” divide fruits and vegetables into four color categories: red, orange-yellow, blue-purple and green.

The red foods are a good source of lycopene and vitamins A and C. These are said to lower bad cholesterol levels, help regulate blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Some examples of these are red apples, cherries, cranberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, red grapes, red peppers and watermelon.

The fruits and vegetables in the orange-yellow category are colored byplant pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene in converted to Vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes. Scientists have reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and can improve immune system function. Examples of these include: carrots, mangoes, butternut squash, cantaloupe, bananas, peaches, oranges, yellow peppers, pumpkin, pineapple and sweet potatoes.

Plant pigments called anthocyanins color the blue-purple group.

These may help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. This group is also loaded with antioxidants, which is said to help fight free radicals. Some studies have shown that eating more blueberries is linked with improving memory. Examples of this group are: blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, figs, purple cabbage, plums, purple grapes and raisins.

Perhaps the most important, yet misaligned, color in this vast spectrum is green. The plant pigment chlorophyll colors green foods. Some members of this group also contain lutein, which with the chemical zeaxanthin, may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are great sources of folate. Examples of this group are green apples, artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green beans, cucumbers, kiwi, lettuce, limes, green onions, peas, spinach, broccoli, and zucchini.

Eating a full assortment of fruits and vegetables is an important step for a healthier lifestyle.

Try to add some fruits and vegetables to each meal or snack because the payoff in terms of health could be considerable.

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