THINK Fit! Color, Color and More Color!

By: Dr. Iris I. Mercado, EdD, CDN

Color must be present on your plate at all times and for that you need to include fruits and vegetables. In addition to color, fruits and vegetables add vitamins/minerals, flavor, fiber, satiety and satiation meal. Also, when you add a salad or vegetables to the plate there’s not much space for the starch and protein so you tend to eat less of the foods with more calories and more of the healthier foods.

Some of the benefits of adding vegetables on the plate are:

Calorie control: they add nutrients without adding significant amount of calories

Volume: the plate looks full but includes less calories

Fiber: You will feel full faster (satiety) and stay full longer (satiation)

Essential vitamins & minerals: if you don’t eat them, your body cannot make them

Phytochemicals: non-nutrients (pigments and scents) linked to reductions in the risk of major chronic diseases including cancer

Antioxidants: compounds in food that help fight the process of oxidation, or oxidative stress, a factor related to almost every degenerative disease. 

So, eat a “rainbow” of foods every day!

Red Food: red berries, tomato, red peppers, red apples, red onions, beets, cranberries

Contain lycopene, which correlates to lower risks of Pancreatic and Ovarian cancer. Cranberries contain antibacterial properties to aid in the prevention of urinary tract infections. They are low in calories, low in “carbs” and very high in fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium and contain a powerful antioxidant (Anthocyanins). Try to eat at least one serving daily.

Dark Orange Food: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, papaya/mamey, mango, peaches, nectarines

Contain Beta-carotene, which has an anti-carcinogenic effect on stomach cancer, and caffeic acid, found in sweet potatoes and carrots, slows down breast cancer growth. Pumpkin is very low in calories and very high in potassium, Vitamin C (beneficial to control blood pressure) and Beta-carotene. Papaya (along with pineapple) is a great source of digestive enzymes (Papain) that ease digestion, pain and inflammation. Consume these at least twice a week.

Yellow Food: citrus fruits (lemons, tangerines, grapefruit) spaghetti squash

Citrus fruits are rich in flavonoids and Vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects against disease and almost all cancers, especially throat and mouth, stomach, and colon cancers. Add yellow to your diet daily.

Green Food: greens peppers, green beans, green apples, pears
Dark Green Food: kale, endive, bok choy, broccoli, romaine lettuce, collard green, spinach, watercress

These foods are rich in glucosinolates that protect against cancer development and growth. They are a good source of Vitamin K, which your body needs to help prevent diabetes and coagulation. Eat them daily.

White Food- onions, chives, garlic, mushrooms, shallots, cabbage, jicama

Allicin in garlic has antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, released when garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed. (Wait about 10 minutes before cooking garlic to allow the Allicin to form). 
Antioxidants in onions have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral effects and they are also a good source of Quercetin, which has a beneficial effect against chronic diseases, and anti-allergic effects that can help relieve Asthma. Mushrooms are high in Vitamin D and contain powerful antioxidants that help neutralized dangerous free radicals and prevent cells from oxidation. Jicama, a staple food in Mexico, is low in calories and fat and high in fiber, which makes it a good option for weight loss. Eat these once a day.

Purple and Blue Foods- eggplant, purple cabbage, blueberries,

Blueberries are the anti-aging super food. They contain high amounts of fiber, and many vitamins but most importantly, blueberries are high in strong antioxidants (Anthocyanins and Pterostilbene) that reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of developing chronic diseases like Alzheimer, Diabetes and heart diseases. Studies show a strong association between blueberries and memory enhancements, eye health and improved night vision. Eat them on a daily basis.