From a young age, we’ve heard that the more color on our plates,
the better. Not only is a variety of color on our plates visually appealing,
but it also has an abundance of health benefits! Imagine it: Grilled chicken,
rice, corn and cauliflower can be a bit drab; but grilled chicken, rice
with stewed tomatoes, and green beans provide much more excitement to
your dinner plate!
Summerville Medical Center Registered Dietitian Lauri Watson says, “Taste
the rainbow. Variety in the diet is a good rule of thumb. Dare to explore
new fresh fruits and vegetables to get more fiber and antioxidants in
Every day more and more health benefits are found in foods of all colors.
The nutrients in foods or the components in foods that give it color are
found to serve as antioxidants. What is an antioxidant? According to the
Harvard School of Public Health, the term “antioxidant” refers
to the ability of a food to reduce free radical damage. Free radicals
are chemicals that harm our body. Examples could be cigarette smoke, fried
foods, and strenuous physical activity. Don’t worry, our body is
equipped to deal with free radical exposure to some extent. However, consuming
a diet rich in antioxidants can help prevent chronic diseases and can
prepare the body’s defense
against cancers. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) collects research
on beneficial nutrients in foods. So, what are some antioxidant containing
foods, and what do they look like? The foods below are from the AICR:
Tomatoes- contain lycopene, which has cancer fighting properties. Research suggests
lycopene can be protective against prostate, breast, and lung cancer.
Apples- contain fiber, and quercetin. Fiber helps with regularity, with is good
for heart health. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory properties.
Grapefruit- contains vitamin C and the phytochemicals naringenin and limonin. Vitamin
C helps us maintain a healthy immune system, and also helps with dietary
Green leafy vegetables- contain carotenoids. The carotenoid group is comprised of many different
phytochemicals. Carotenoids appear to act as antioxidants, repairing damaged
cells. Green leafy veggies are also full of vitamin K, which helps us
form blood clots. If you are taking a blood thinning medication, however,
your doctor may restrict your vitamin K intake.
Blueberries- full of the phytochemicals resveratrol, ellagic acid, anthocyanins, and
more! Anthocyanins are the pigment that make blueberries blue. Popular
media holds that the antioxidants in this fruit can help maintain memory.
Walnuts- walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart healthy fats. They
also contain vitamin E, which function as an antioxidant.
Garlic- although it’s usually considered a seasoning, garlic belongs to
the allium family. Onions are also members of this family. Alliums contain
the phytochemicals querceitn, allixin, and sulfur containing compounds.
Research suggests that plants from the allium family can protect again
skin, colon, and lung cancer.
A word about phytochemicals: Phytochemicals are found in plants, and are thought to have a health benefits.
The topic of phytochemicals is extensive, and research is just beginning.
Just know that if they are found in a plant, they are probably good for you!
All of these foods are plant based and not processed. They also are a rainbow
of colors, and provide health benefits to the entire body. The takeaway:
aim to eat foods from each color family every day! Each one provides a
unique, good-for-you benefit.