The other day I was sitting down to eat lunch with my two boys (4 and 1) and my 4 year old said, "Mom, but how come carrots are orange and lettuce is green? Why don't they match?" His observation was so cute that I giggled and then explained that they are different colors because they give our bodies different things that our bodies need. He seemed to understand or at least accept that reason as sufficient and continued eating his lunch. But it got me thinking, how many of us actually eat a variety of different colored foods every day? We all have that handful of fruits and vegetables that we love to eat and usually we end up eating the same things every single day. But when we do that we miss out on really important nutrients that our bodies need to thrive! So I have a challenge for you! I challenge you to try and eat at least one fruit and one vegetable from each color category every day for a week and notice what colored foods you need to remember to eat more of!
The Rainbow of Food Categories:
1. Red and Pink Foods: contains the antioxidants lypocene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C
Lypocene rids the body of free radicals and helps blood clotting, stroke and heart disease. Beta-carotene is an anti-oxidant that the body converts into Vitamin A which benefits the muscles, skin and eyes. Vitamin C is essential to the repair and growth of all tissues int he body, boosts immunity, helps fight disease and it is important to know that it is not stored in the body so it needs to be replenished daily. Some great Red Food choices include: strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, beets, red peppers, pomegranate, red apples, currants, red chard, red grapes. Some Pink Food choices include: red grapefruit, guava, watermelon.
Mom tip: Watermelon is a year round kid friendly food!
2. Orange and Yellow Foods: contain the antioxidant beta-carotene and vitiman C but in different levels than in the Red Foods
Beta-Carotene should be a big part of our nutrition and can be used to help treat cancer, AIDS, macular degeneration, heart disease, epilepsy, Parkinsons disease, and psoriasis. Some great Orange and Yellow Foods are: oranges, papaya, pumpkin, carrot, orange peppers, sweet potato, butternut squash, mangoes, cantaloupe, peaches, orange tomatoes, pineapple, summer squash, and lemons.
Mom tip: Cut sweet potatoes into long strips like french fries, toss them in a little olive oil, splrikle with salt and bake them at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve as soon as they are cooled off and enjoy a healthier version of the fast food favorite!
3. Green Foods: provide the body with folate, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Both antioxidants lutien and zeaxanthin have been shown to support and protect the eyes and are important for overall health of the body. They block blue light from the eyes and help prevent cataracts. Green Foods also contain Folate, a B-vitiman which is important for the body is so many ways! It helps keep energy up, it prevents depression and helps you concentrate.
Mom tip: Throw some spinach in your kids smoothies when they are not looking! My boys also both love fresh pressed green juice made with kale, celery, cucumber, red apples, and lemon.
Blue and Purple Foods: contain antioxidants ellagic acid and polyphenols but also vitiman C and the flavonoid anthocyonin.
Anthocyonin is able to cross the brain barrier and has been shown to have positive affects on learning and preventing memory loss. It is anti-inlamatory and anti-viral and research has shown that it may help prevent heart disease and breast cancer.
Mom tip: My kids are obsessed with frozen blueberries as a healthy dessert or snack!
White Foods: contain quercetin which is a natural anti-histimine and anit-inflamatory.
Quercetin found in white foods has been shown to lower blood pressure and may help prevent heart disease. Great White Foods include white onions, garlic, jicama, mushrooms, cauliflower, coconut, parsnips and turnips. Processed white foods like white rice, bread and pastas DO NOT count.
Mom Tip: My kids love cauliflower crust pizza (home made or the frozen crust from Trader Joes) and we put thinly sliced mushrooms on it too which gives them a double dose of White Foods! Also start buying shredded coconut and sprinkling on fruit bowls and make sure you store it in the freezer or fridge so it doesn't get moldy.
Tan Foods: contain lots of fiber!
Tan Foods like oats, quinoa, brown rice, nuts and nut butters are full of fiber which helps keep protect your digestive tract, help prevent colon cancer and also heart disease.
Mom Tip: Serve your kids oatmeal for breakfast with lots of berries and chopped apple, nut butter and cinnamon for a delicious filling breakfast!
Dark Brown foods: contain a type of antioxidant called polyphenols.
This antixoidant has been shown to protect the body from cancers, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. Dark Brown Foods include chocolate, coffee and some teas.
Mom Tip: Add dark chocolate chips to home baked goods like banana bread, pancakes and even oatmeal!
Black Foods: contain iron and calcium.
Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to other cells. We all know that calcium is essential to mantaining strong healthy bones but did you know that it also helps the heart and nervous system to function properly. Our bodies contain more calcium than any other mineral! Great Black Food choices are black beans, black olives, black pepper, black tea, black rice, black quinoa, black sesame seeds, black lentils and black tea.
Mom Tip: Add black beans to casseroles, on top of baked potatoes , and in tacos and burritos!
So there you go! Simple healthy reasons why you should try to eat colorful foods from the rainbow every single day! Thanks for getting nerdy with me and taking the time to soak in some awesome nutritional information!