Colorful foods are rich in nutrients

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

This September, the non-profit Produce for Better Health Foundation has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help Americans add more fruits and vegetable to their diets as part of Fruit and Veggies — More Matters. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can enhance your diet with a variety of important nutrients that provide a multitude of health benefits, including lowering cancer risk, slowing aging, lowering risk of heart disease, and building a stronger immune system. There’s no better time than right now to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, as a wide variety of summer produce is in season and readily available at farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

The different colors of food can often be a signal for some of the beneficial nutrients that food contains. If everything on your plate is the same color, you are unlikely to be getting a true variety of nutrients. Ever notice how the latest “super nutrient” is found in a colorful fruit or vegetable? Or how meals we tend to associate with poor nutritional value tend to consist of various shades of brown? Eating foods in a broad variety of colors helps ensure you are getting the proper spectrum of nutrients help ward off disease and enhance overall health.

Red, blue and purple foods such as blueberries, cherries, beets and eggplant contain a family of chemicals called anthocyanins. These compounds help to give the fruit its rich red color and also serve as antioxidants, helping to protect cells from damage and aging. Some other red foods contain the pigment lycopene. Tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit may be beneficial for reducing the risk of several types of cancer.

Orange and yellow foods pack a big nutritional punch with carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A is critical for improving eyesight, bolstering the immune system, and warding off heart disease. Some good yellow or orange sources of carotenoids are apricots, carrots, squash, and cantaloupe. Although they are often orange or yellow, citrus fruits are not good sources of vitamin A. However, they contain vitamin C and folate, which help reduce the risk of birth defects.

Green foods contain a variety of beneficial nutrients that can help you stay healthy and strong. Some examples of nutrient-rich green foods are asparagus, avocados, spinach, and broccoli.

Adding color to your diet is easy, but food coloring doesn’t count! To make your plate a collage of color, add fruit on top of your morning cereal or take along some cut veggies for a healthy, colorful, on-the-go snack. Try different fruits and veggies often by experimenting with new recipes.

For more information about incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet, visit

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