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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • March 2018
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What color is your diet?

Remember ROYGBIV? This mnemonic device is how many of us learned the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Nowadays I use the acronym to represent the colors of food I should be eating. March is National Nutrition Month, and “eating the colors of the rainbow” is one of the best things we can do for our health. Of course I’m not referring to the popular candy that encourages tasting these brilliant colors, I’m talking about fruits and vegetables!

Think about the average person’s daily meals. Breakfast may start with either cereal and milk, or eggs with pancakes and sausage. As one moves into the lunch hour, grabbing for a burger or sandwich sided with chips, fries, cookies and soda is pretty common. Lastly, envision a typical supper, which is usually based around some sort of meat with potatoes/rice/noodles, and a fan favorite “veggie” known as corn! Close your eyes and picture the colors that were just consumed on an average day — brown, white and yellow! Unfortunately some of the only vegetables that Americans eat are lettuce, tomato and onion — because they came with that burger!

The proof is in the pigment, everyone! And what a wonderful and easy way to protect your health — through eating! Consuming a diet rich in plant foods will provide a vast amount of phytochemicals, or nonnutritive substances in plants, that possess health-protective effects preventing and treating chronic disease. Phytochemicals are both anti-inflammatory and tissue-specific for the body. The best part? The benefits come from consuming mixtures of the fruits and vegetables, not just a single few, leaving us with many options to select from nature’s pharmacy! Challenge yourself to eat foods from each color every day. There is only so much benefit received from eating the same thing all the time; rotation and variety is key! The following are a few examples of where to find these phytochemical colors and their specific healing properties:

Red: Lycopene, or anthocyanins, help to reduce several types of cancer risks (especially prostate) and serve as powerful antioxidant protecting from cell damage.

  • Beets
  • Cherries
  • Red peppers
  • Red potatoes
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries
  • Radishes
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Red grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Red apples
  • Pomegranates
  • Watermelon
  • Red cabbage

Orange/Yellow: Carotenoids help to maintain healthy mucous membranes and eyes. They also may reduce risk of cancers, heart disease and can improve immune system function.

  • Butternut/yellow squash
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Yellow peppers
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow apples
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Tangerines

Green: Chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin and indoles serve to maintain vision health, atherosclerosis and also protect against some forms of cancer.

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce/spinach
  • Green onions
  • Peas
  • Green peppers
  • Limes
  • Zucchini
  • Avocados
  • Green apples
  • Green grapes
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi

Blue/Purple: Anthocyanidins are “anti-aging,” protecting one’s brain health and nerve tissue, and controlling blood pressure and heart health.

  • Purple kale
  • Purple cabbage
  • Purple potatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Purple grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Raisins
  • Figs
  • Plums 

References: Lila, Ann .N.Y. Acad. Sci. 11143:372-380, 2007.

Walsh et al., Amer J Clin Nutr; 2007: 86:1687-1693.

Kim Stoeger, MS, Clinical Nutritionist

Kimberly Stoeger, MS, is the clinical nutritionist and owner of Nutritional Healing, LLC. Her passion lies in supporting people’s health through evidence-based medicine (risks versus benefits of medications) and healing therapies through nutrition. Kimberly has her masters of science in human nutrition degree, and experience working with clients regarding weight and fatigue issues, sports nutrition, food sensitivities and allergies, and general health concerns such as high blood pressure, high glucose levels, high cholesterol/triglycerides, migraines, thyroid conditions and gut dysfunction. To learn more, call 920-358-5764 or email [email protected]

Website: [email protected]
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