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Eat well by color!

By Nicci Micco, May 6, 2009 - 4:36am

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This weekend, the farmers’ market in my town is starting up and I absolutely cannot wait! I love shopping the market for fruits and vegetables that represent all colors of the rainbow. A colorful variety means that my shopping bag looks super pretty—but it also means that I’m packing in tons of good nutrients. In the new, yummy EatingWell in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook, Dr. Preston Maring says nature saturates foods with bright hues to highlight their nutritional benefits. Anthocyanins make blueberries blue and may help to keep your mind sharp. Tomatoes get their ruby hue from lycopene, a compound that may help prevent breast cancer. Here’s the vibrant variety I’ll be looking for all summer long with some delicious recipes from EatingWell in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook.

Red: Red foods, such as tomatoes, watermelon and red bell peppers, contain lycopene, a phytochemical that may help protect against prostate and breast cancers. Red bells give sweet flavor to fish in Grilled Salmon & Zucchini with Red Pepper Sauce.

Orange: Alpha and beta carotene make foods such as apricots (try our delicious Apricot-Almond Clafouti), carrots and sweet potatoes, orange. The body converts these compounds into the active form of vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes, bones and immune system healthy. These phytochemicals also operate as antioxidants, sweeping up disease-promoting free radicals.

Yellow & Green: Many yellow and green vegetables are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that accumulate in the eyes and help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people. Leafy greens are also rich in beta carotene. Some—like watercress and arugula—also count as cruciferous vegetables, which means they provide compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates, which may help prevent cancer by amping up the production of enzymes that clear toxins from the body.

Purple & Deep-Red: Purple and deep-red fruits and vegetables are full of anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, antioxidants associated with keeping the heart healthy and the brain functioning optimally. Contrast sweet strawberries with tangy rhubarb in Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. Mmm…

TAGS: Nicci Micco, Health Blog, Nutrition, Wellness

Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.

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