Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Colors of Summer: Eat a Rainbow

When I think of the colors of summer, in terms of fresh produce, one word sums it up for me.


Summer produces such an array of colorful produce.  While the vibrancy is beautiful and pleasing to the eye, there are other benefits to choosing produce in a variety of colors.  Have you heard to "Eat a Rainbow"?  We're not talking Lucky Charms here folks...or Skittles.  While those are colorful and sweet, there's no health benefit there.  Kids like colorful things - crayons, candy, play doh, etc.  Why not let them pick some colorful veggies to try?  Here's a fun & interactive PDF Eat a Rainbow Chart from Wegmans that can help children to try and eat an assortment of colors each day.

There are health benefits linked to certain colors in foods.  This is really interesting if you're learning about these properties for the first time.
  • Greens, including: spinach, collards, kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, avocados, cauliflower, artichokes, asparagus, cucumbers, honeydew, kiwi, peas, green peppers, zucchini

    Greens boast an array of positive health benefits.  They contain dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as a host of phytochemicals.  They also provide antioxidants that assist the circulatory system. Studies show that greens reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. 

  • Yellows & Oranges, including: sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, apricots, butternut squash, papaya, pineapple, pumpkin, squash, peaches, tangerines, oranges, yellow peppers

    Most yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, carotenoids, vitamin C and minerals. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps make the immune system strong. Orange fruits and vegetables also have vitamin C and folate to improve circulation, prevent inflammation, prevent cancer by repairing DNA and reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Reds, including: tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries, cherries, rhubarb, red peppers, pomegranates, radishes, apples

    Most red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and some types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. It also reduces the effects of sun damage on the skin.

  • Blues & Purples, including: blueberries, purple grapes, red cabbage, beets, plums, blackberries, figs, eggplant, prunes

    Blue and purple fruits and vegetables have antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins protect against heart disease by improving circulation and preventing blood clots.  They have also been linked to healthy aging and improved memory function.

  • Whites, including: garlic, onions, bananas, cauliflower, ginger, jicama, mushrooms, parsnips, turnips, potatoes

    White fruits and vegetables have allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Allicin also can act as a poor man's antibiotic and reduce the risk of stomach cancer.

Getting back to VIBRANT for a moment, check out some of my Farmers Market and Organic finds from this summer:

Baby Eggplant - Fell's Point Farmers Market

Heirloom Tomatoes - Towson Farmers Market

Apple, Carrots, Spinach - for a smoothie!

White onion, organic carrots, organic beets - MOMs (My Organic Market)

Organic Asparagus - MOMs

Local white corn - Richardson Farms

Organic Carnival Squash - MOMs

*Color facts courtesy of Alvina Begay, R.D., Flagstaff Medical Center, Flagstaff AZ
* Photos are my own

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