Why colour-code your diet?

Why colour-code your diet?

Author: Canadian Living


Why colour-code your diet?

Science tells us the way your food looks is almost as important as how it tastes. Fill a plate with a blast of Mother Nature's colours and you're doing a lot more than pleasing your eyes. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre as well as naturally occurring compounds that give fruits and vegetables their colour. When you eat fresh produce, colour, flavour and nutrition come together in brilliant harmony.

Goal: Eat a variety of colours daily. Aim to eat two brightly coloured fruits and/or vegetables at both lunch and dinner and at least one for breakfast.

Tomatoes get their red colour from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. Lycopene is also found in pink grapefruit and watermelon.

• When tomatoes are heated or processed to produce a tomato sauce or tomato paste, spaghetti sauce or even ketchup, the lycopene becomes more active and beneficial.
• Lycopene is fat-soluble, so add a little olive oil to your pasta sauce.
• Add extra tomato sauce to your pasta, snack on watermelon and have half a pink grapefruit for breakfast.

Strawberries, raspberries and cranberries get their red colour from anthocyanins, antioxidant plant pigments that help work against cancer and heart disease.

• Add chopped cranberries to relishes or pilafs, eat dried cranberries as a snack, serve cranberry sauce with poultry and enjoy a glass of cranberry juice.
• Bought fresh or frozen, berries can be eaten as is, added to a smoothie, sliced over cereal, in yogurt, in salsa or mixed together for dessert.

The green comes from chlorophyll, which researchers suspect becomes a powerful cancer-fighting agent when it's broken down by digestion. All the greens are rich in vitamins, minerals and a variety of disease-fighting plant chemicals. Some of these plant chemicals help prevent macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in older people. When you pick your greens, the darker the better. Romaine lettuce has six times the vitamin C and eight times the beta-carotene of iceberg lettuce.

• Add spinach leaves instead of iceberg lettuce to your sandwich.
• Serve broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus or rapini as a side dish.
• Experiment with something new: add arugula or dandelion greens to your salad or try beet greens steamed, boiled, sautéed or stir-fried.

Blue pigment created by anthocyanins ranges from the deep blue/purple in foods such as concord grapes and eggplant, to the blue in blueberries, blackberries and plums. The anthocyanins in grapes might be one of the reasons red wine is thought to lower the risk of heart attack.

• Fresh summer blueberries are delicious but you can buy them frozen all year round to snack on or add to baking, smoothies, in crisps or on top of cereal or pancakes.
• Eggplant can be grilled, roasted or baked, added to sandwiches, made into a dip or used in a vegetarian lasagna.

Orange foods are sources of alpha and beta-carotene associated with cancer prevention. Sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, apricots, mangoes and cantaloupes all make the grade.

• Make sweet potatoes into a soup, bake or mash them instead of white potatoes, try sweet potato fries or a sweet potato salad.
• Snack on baby carrots, throw them into your kid's lunches with a dip or add grated carrots to meatloaf.
• Mangoes are delicious eaten raw, in a salad, made into a crisp, a chutney or salsa.

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Why colour-code your diet?