From the Archives: Spring 2009 issue of Lupus Now
Cooking With Color
by Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H.
Crimson cherries, purple eggplant, creamy-white cauliflower, and bright-green broccoli -- all of these foods boast a complex mix of nutrients that work together to promote health. In fact, research shows that color is nature’s key to staving off disease.
"The compounds that give fruits and vegetables their color are the same compounds that may prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of The Flexitarian Diet.
Here’s a guide to the healthful colors in your disease-fighting kitchen:
Red: "Most red fruits and vegetables have lycopene, an antioxidant that may help protect against cancer, particularly prostate cancer," says Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., owner of One Source Nutrition in southern Connecticut. Tomatoes get the most attention, but watermelon, pink grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, and guava have similar disease-fighting potential.
Yellow and orange: Yellow and orange foods such as pumpkin, butternut squash, apricots, carrots, peaches, and mangoes are rich in beta-carotene, a nutrient that not only helps boost immunity (protecting cells from stress damage) but also promotes eye health.
Green: You’d be hard-pressed to find a nutritionist who wouldn’t recommend loading up on leafy greens. Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, and kale contain powerful substances that protect against cancer and thwart bacteria to boot.
Blue and purple: Blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple grapes, and eggplant are bursting with anthocyanins, the phytochemicals that protect cells from damage, promote brain health, and enhance immunity, explains Stokes. In fact, blueberries contain more antioxidants than nearly any other food, and because they freeze well, you can enjoy them year-round. Blueberry pancakes, anyone?
White: "White is often overlooked as a color, but white foods are very powerful," says Blatner. "The strong taste in white foods like onions, garlic, and cauliflower indicate compounds that help protect against heart disease and stroke." In addition to protecting the heart, most of these foods contain sulfides that detoxify the body and bolster immunity.
The bottom line: No one color is better than another. "You have to eat a rainbow of colors to protect your body from head to toe because they all work synergistically," says Blatner. "And you need to eat different foods within each color, too. Just because you’re eating spinach doesn’t mean you’re covered for green foods. Each green food contains a different set of nutrients, so it’s important to eat a variety of colors and a variety of foods."
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