Eating the Rainbow
Did you know that you can increase the likelihood that your tot gets all the vitamins and antioxidants s/he needs by planning colorful meals? Fire-engine red, sunshine yellow, emerald green, rich purples- these bright fruit and vegetable colors are not just feasts for your eyes, but treasures of healthy nutrients as well.
In general, the more colorful the food, the more nutritious it is. For example, spinach rates more highly than lettuce, the deep orange of a sweet potato contains more nutrients than an ordinary potato, and pink grapefruit is preferable to an ordinary grapefruit. Each different colored food is typically rich of different vitamins and antioxidants; thus providing your tot with a rainbow of colors ensures that s/he gets the benefits of different vitamins. While it would be nice to try to include as many colors as you can throughout the day, it is more important that your tot gets foods of each color over the course of a week. It may be helpful to put a checklist with all the food colors and days of the week by your refrigerator, so whenever your tot eats a color of the rainbow, you can make a check in the appropriate box. If you notice by the end of the week that your tot came short in a color or two, you can still add them in.
Here are the different colors and their benefits:
GREEN: Asparagus, avocados, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, fava beans, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach, watercress. Green foods are rich in the vitamins A, C, and E, which can protect our bodies’ cells and boost our chances of living a longer, healthier life. Green leafy veggies are also rich in iron. The green color comes from chlorophyll, which is a plant’s way of converting sunlight to energy. Studies have shown that regularly eating broccoli reduces the risk of cancer. It is also a good source of glucosinolates, which have strong anticancer effects by stimulating our bodies’ natural defenses.
RED: Baked beans, cherries, grapes, guava, papaya, plums, raspberries, red bell pepper, red/pink grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon. Lycopene is a natural pigment that gives fruits like tomatoes, red grapefruits, and watermelons their red color and is one of the most powerful cancer-fighting carotenoids. It is particularly valuable in helping to protect us from certain cancers such as prostate and cervical cancer. Lycopene further reduces our heart attack risk by up to 50%. Lycopene is not produced by the body and needs to be derived from our diet. Lycopene is easiest for our bodies to absorb when tomatoes have been processed or cooked with a little oil in foods like tomato soup, tomato sauce and ketchup.
ORANGE AND YELLOW: Apricots, cantaloupes, carrots, lemons, mangoes, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pumpkins, rutabagas, squash, sweet potatoes. Orange and yellow fruits and veggies are high in beta-carotene; the plant form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene protects against cancer and boosts the immune system against colds and flu. Citrus fruit are good sources of vitamin C, which is important for growth, healthy skin, healing wounds, and improving the absorption of iron.
DARK BLUE OR PURPLE: Beets, blackberries, black currants, blueberries, eggplant, grapes, plums, prunes. There is a lot of vitamin C, as well as antioxidants such as bioflavonoid in blue and purple foods, which help to boost immunities against cancer. The skin of grapes also contains a substance that can lower cholesterol and prevent fats in the bloodstream from sticking together. As a result, a daily glass of red wine is now thought to lower cholesterol levels. The pigment anthocyanin, which makes foods blue/purple, has powerful anticancer properties. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit because of the high level of anthocyanin in their skin.
WHITE: Apples, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Garlic, onions, and leeks contain organosulphides, which seem to stimulate the immune system and fight cancer. Organosulphides are also antioxidants. Garlic is also rich in allicin, which is an antibiotic and is antiviral.
If you would like to read more about this topic, check out the following links:
Fruit and Veggies Matter