March is National Nutrition Month!

March 2nd, 2011

The American Dietetic Association is encouraging everyone to Eat Right with Color

What exactly does that mean?

Michael Pollan writes in his wonderful book Food Rules, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

“The colors of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain – anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, [and] carotenoids. Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible.”

And, registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Karen Ansel says,

“Adding a splash of colorful seasonal foods to your plate makes for more than just a festive meal. A rainbow of foods creates a palette of nutrients, each with a different bundle of potential benefits for a healthful eating plan.”

“Healthy eating includes more than counting calories alone. Food variety supplies different nutrients, so to maximize the nutritional value of your meal, include healthful choices in a variety of colors.”

Ansel offers ways to brighten up your plate in every season with this quick color guide.

Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime

Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach

Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity, and reduce the risk of some cancers.

Fruits: apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach and pineapple

Vegetables: carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn and sweet potatoes

Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.

Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins

Vegetables: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato

Red indicates produce that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, and immunity and may reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon

Vegetables: beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes

White, tan and brown foods sometimes contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: banana, brown pear, dates and white peaches

Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potato and white corn

Ansel recommends choosing a variety of colors when shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables. “And for additional options in the color palette, choose frozen or dried fruits and vegetables available throughout the year,” she says.

“Instead of grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, consider painting a more colorful plate, such as grilled chicken topped with salsa, mashed sweet potato, asparagus and spinach salad with orange slices. A colorful meal is not only visually appealing, but it also contains a variety of nutrients and is quite flavorful,” Ansel says.

Additional resources: The Power Plate from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and The New Dietary Guidelines for Americans – 2010

Related posts: Celebrate National Nutrition Month, Better Late Than Never and Eat More Fiber?

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