by Sarah Barnes, MS, RD/LD
Spring has arrived and with it so have fresh fruits and vegetables. The farmer’s markets have begun and there is also an abundance of great produce in the stores. We have all heard of the importance of “tasting a rainbow”. But what does that actually mean? While we want to continue to focus on the amount of fruits and vegetables, it is important to incorporate a variety of different types and colors. Bright and colorful produce has the most nutrition and each color has a different benefit.
RED- Great examples of these foods include strawberries, watermelon, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, and cranberries. Some red foods such as watermelon and tomatoes are a source of lycopene which is good for your heart. Tomatoes are one of the only foods where cooking it allows you to absorb more lycopene than eating it fresh. Cranberries have been known to help protect against urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from sticking against the bladder walls. Some red produce are also good sources of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.
ORANGE/YELLOW- These foods are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and bromelaine. Bromelaine which is an enzyme found in pineapple can help with indigestion and reduce swelling. Vegetables such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are a great source of potassium which can help lower blood pressure. Papayas have an enzyme called papain that is great for your digestion.
GREEN- The darker the green the better! Green vegetables are a good source of vitamin A and calcium, which can help protect your eyesight and keep your bones and teeth strong. Some green vegetables such as the dark leafy greens are also high in vitamin K, so monitor your intake if you are taking any blood thinning medications. Some of the green fruits & vegetables such as brussel sprouts, broccoli and kiwi are excellent sources of vitamin C.
PURPLE/BLUE- The blue and purple color comes from something called anthocyanins which give the produce its color and is a good source of antioxidants. Some examples of these include eggplant, blueberries, beets, kidney beans, and plums. These fruits and vegetables help your heart stay healthy and keep your memory strong. Besides being a great source of fiber, these fruits and vegetables have also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and certain cancers, improve retinal health, and fight inflammation.
WHITE- While it is encouraged for you to be eating a rainbow, there are also health benefits from incorporating some white fruits and vegetables. Some examples of these include bananas, onions, cauliflower, potatoes, fennel and mushrooms. Potatoes, bananas, and fennel are high in Vitamin C and fiber. An easy way to incorporate cauliflower is to steam it and add it into mashed potatoes. Mushrooms are an easy food to incorporate and are a good source of some B vitamins.
The next time you go grocery shopping, make sure your cart contains a rainbow. If you have children, it is an excellent idea to get them to help pick out foods and prepare them. Getting children more involved helps encourage them to try new things. Enjoy the spring weather, rain and rainbows! May all of your plates be colorful!
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.