June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month, a time to highlight the many benefits fruits and veggies offer to you and your family. As summer approaches and an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables become available from your local grocery story (or, better yet, farmer's market), it is important to know how each "group" contributes to your long term health. And the easiest way to do that? By remembering the colors of the rainbow! While you won't find a pot of gold at the end, you will find delicious, fresh and healthy food choices your whole family will love.
Red foods contain lycopene that helps rid the body of damaging free radicals, protect against prostate cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. The red foods are loaded with antioxidants thought to protect against heart disease by preventing blood clots and may also delay the aging of cells in the body.
Red foods include
- Red cabbage
- Pink grapefruit
- Red grapes
- Red peppers
- Red potatoes
- Red apples
Orange and Yellow
Orange and yellow foods contain alpha carotene, which protects against cancer, but also contain beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A to protect the skin against free-radical damage. Beta-carotene is also good for night vision.
Orange and yellow foods include:
- Yams and sweet potatoes
- Yellow apples
- Butternut squash
- Oranges and Tangerines
- Yellow peppers
- Yellow summer or winter squash
- Sweet corn
- Yellow tomatoes
Green foods contain chemicals that help ward off cancer by inhibiting carcinogens. Chlorophyll is the component that makes plants green, and is purifying in the body. Many green foods also contain calcium and minerals.
Green foods include
- Kale, spinach and other leafy greens
- Green apples
- Sea vegetables
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Green cabbage
- Green grapes
- Kiwi fruit
- Green onions
Blue, Indigo and Violet
Blue, indigo and violet foods contain the compound anthocyanins that not only give food their color but also have been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and increase heart health.
Foods in this part of the rainbow include:
- Purple grapes
- Plums, fresh and dried (prunes)
Though while is not part a color of the rainbow, white foods contain properties that have anti-tumor qualities, such as allicin in onions as well as other health-improving antioxidants such as the flavanoids. The white foods, bananas and potatoes, contain potassium as well.
So how do you do incorporate these fruits and vegetables into your daily eating habits?
Here are some sample menus for you to get you started:
- An orange. Sauté 1/2 red pepper, ½ onion, 2 shitake mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic. Add 3 cups leafy greens (spinach leaves are fine) and 3 eggs. Cook until eggs are done and serve.
- Strawberries. Oatmeal made with cubed butternut squash or pureed pumpkin, topped with raw walnut pieces and raw pumpkin seeds.
- 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.
- Spinach salad topped with black olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and cauliflower. Add beans or chicken if you like. Toss with fresh lemon juice and either olive oil or flax oil or a combination of the two. Sprinkle fresh parsley, chopped, on top.
- Grilled fish or chicken breast or black beans and brown rice (protein). Coleslaw made with green and red cabbage with red onions and grated carrots. Baked yam.
- Pasta primavera made with spinach fettuccini, sautéed red peppers, onions, garlic, zucchini, carrots, and whatever else is in season.
- 1 cup blueberries and cantaloupe
- Jicama slices with salsa and Celery with hummus or peanut or almond butter
- Pineapple chunks and banana slices
- Raw veggies with your favorite dip. Hummus is a good choice.
- Tangerine slices with herb tea
Remember that you need 5-9 cups of vegetables and fruits a day for good health (or half the plate, using the USDA's new MyPlate guide). Make sure at least half of your veggies are raw. Don't forget that juicing can incorporate many colored fruits and veggies easily and may be a good choice for those who may not be able to chew raw fruits and veggies.
Patty James is a Certified Natural Chef with a Master's degree in Holistic Nutrition, founder and director of the Patty James Cooking School and Nutrition Center, the first certified organic cooking school and nutrition center in the country, and of Direction Five, a non-profit culinary and nutrition program for kids. She created the Patty James Health Guide, a guide to life-long healthy eating and lifestyle. Patty is a frequent guest speaker in public and private schools around the US, the Clinton Foundation in New York, as well as to health practitioners and organizations. Patty runs Shine the Light On America's Kids, an organization whose mission is to shine the light on all aspects of kids health in America. She is the co-author of More Vegetables, Please!
Updated May 4, 2012