A trip to the section of the grocery store where fresh fruits and vegetables are displayed immediately showcases a rich variety of colors, from the palest whites to the deepest purples. Greens, yellows, and reds are inter-mixed for a smorgasbord of appealing, nutrient-packed foods. Unfortunately, many people limit their purchases to the few familiar favorites, neglecting those products with which they are less familiar. What a mistake!
Research indicates that the healthy produce nature has displayed on this beautiful palette of colors should be included in the total picture of a healthy diet. Many health experts recommend 9-10 servings daily, double that of the food pyramid, for maximum health benefits. In addition to weight loss benefits, these foods appear to reduce the risk of chronic diseases that may attack the eyes and the heart. They may also strengthen the body to resist some types of cancer, support cognitive functioning and avoid Type II diabetes. Studies suggest fruits and vegetables may even promote a more youthful-looking appearance.
The less exciting white products such as garlic and onion are much more than just great flavor enhancers. They contain allicin, a nutrient that has been shown to lower cholesterol as well as blood pressure. The potato, often considered a nemesis for dieters, is actually full of potassium, especially in and close to the skin, and Vitamin C. Bananas are equally endowed with potassium, an essential mineral that assists cell functioning. Other white vegetables include cauliflower, mushrooms, parsnips and turnips.
Yellow/orange food produce including carrots, pineapple, lemons, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and pumpkin are full of caratoids. The most familiar nutrient beta-carotene converts to Vitamin A to support healthy mucus membranes and retained vision. Antioxidant properties slow down cell damage and the aging process. The Vitamin C in oranges and other colorful citrus fruits can assist with iron absorption and back down heart disease; and folate (B vitamin) fights birth defects.
Powerful red fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients. Anthocyanins, found in the plant pigment in raspberries, strawberries and other red fruit function as antioxidants to support healthy cells throughout the body. They also seem to have some anti-inflammatory qualities. Cherries, for example, have been shown to help curb attacks of gout, an arthritic disease. They may even help keep the heart healthy.
Lycopene, another "red" nutrient is found in tomatoes and watermelon. It slows the aging process and may have some cancer-fighting qualities, especially with specific cancers such as prostate. Interestingly, cooked tomatoes and tomato-based products can make more of these valuable nutrients available than the raw product.
Those interesting foods that fall into the blue-purple colors such as blueberries, grapes, eggplant, plums and raisins have important health benefits as well. They also contain anthocyanins, but they have added phenolics with antioxidant powers. In addition to fighting natural body-aging, they battle cancer, heart disease and memory decline.
Doesn't everyone love green in nature-green grass, green trees and so on. Green fruits and vegetables are incredibly important to a healthy diet because of the chlorophyll, lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids they contain. Peas and dark leafy greens including spinach promote healthy eyesight by fighting cataracts and macular degeneration. The indoles in broccoli, cabbage and cruciferous veggies may fight some types of cancer. Other green foods include avocado, peppers, green beans, asparagus and zucchini. Additionally, these foods tend to be high in healthy fiber and low in calories for maintaining a healthy weight.
Nature has done its best to present its healthiest natural foods in a variety of colors that will be appealing and appetizing. Now it's up to the consumer to pick generously from this beautiful palette and create a healthy lifestyle that will last a lifetime.
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