Back when most baby boomers were growing up, a typical dinner plate usually featured a hunk of meat, a potato, some canned peas, a potato and perhaps a tomato “for color,” served with a side order of bread and butter. In short, dinner in the 60’s and 70’s was hardly the ultimate nutritional experience.
Today however, we understand a lot more about the science of nutrition – and the health-sustaining power of plates piled high with fresh, preferably organic, produce. To harness all the benefits of nature’s bounty, you’ll need to “eat the rainbow,” every day. If there aren’t at least 3 colors on your plate at every meal – like the ones outlined below — you’re short-changing yourself nutritionally. My advice? Dig in daily and top up your tank with a colorful plate of key nutrients:
THE GOOD WHITE STUFF
To name a few: onions, garlic, cauliflower, but skip the white potatoes.
What they do: The whites will boost the immune system, help fight off infection and tamp down inflammation, thanks to their rich supplies of sulfur and anthoxanthins.
One delicious way to enjoy them: Mashed cauliflower with garlic.
THE GREEN MACHINES
The powerhouses: Spinach, broccoli, kale, avocados, apples, green grapes, honeydew, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, peas and zucchini.
What’s going on inside: Two key ingredients – namely chlorophyll, which helps your liver and kidneys clear the body of toxins, plus a good dose of Vitamin K, to help keep your bones strong and your blood clotting.
How to enjoy them today: Spinach & Strawberry Salad.
THE MELLOW YELLOWS
Topping the list: Yellow peppers, lemons, pineapples, yellow apples, yellow pears, yellow beets and yellow winter squash
What’s in it for you: The yellows will deliver a nice dose of vitamin C and bioflavanoids, so adding them to your plate will help boost collagen, strengthen immunity and help keep inflammation in check.
Chew on this: Add yellow peppers to soups and salads – or enjoy them to scoop up hummus instead of chips or bread.
Reporting for duty: Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines, papayas, oranges and butternut squash
Let’s look under the hood: In the land of orange delights, you’ll find lots of beta-carotene which will help keep your eyes and skin in working order, and help fight off cancer cells. Make mine a double!
What to do with them: You can’t go wrong with one of my favorites, Rancho La Puerta’s recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup with Pears.
Go easy on…. Mangos, oranges, nectarines and papaya. They pack a lot of sugar, so enjoy them, savor them, but mind your portions.
RED ALL ABOUT IT
Leading the pack: tomatoes, watermelon, beets, red bell peppers, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, red kidney beans, radishes, radicchio, red onion.
They’ve got a lot going on: Red foods love your body up, with nutrients goodies like lycopenes and anthocyanins which help improve circulation and blood pressure while they help protect against certain cancers, boost memory and support your urinary tract.
Go easy on…. Cherries, watermelon and strawberries. Delicious as they are, they do have a fair amount of sugar in them so it’s easy to over-do it if you’re not paying attention. Enjoy responsibly!
What to do with all those reds: Chop ‘em up and make a few delicious summer-time salads for your next potluck dinner. Try these on for size: Three Classic Salsas.
The purple goodies: Blueberries, blackberries, plums, eggplant, and purple cabbage
What’s going on in there: In a nutshell, we’re talking antioxidants and LOTS of them. If that weren’t enough, the pretty purples help raise your good cholesterol, prescription-free and help keep your brain healthy. Score!
Drink up: To me, it’s just not morning without a blueberry smoothie, so give my special blend a whirl in the blender and see if you don’t feel the same!
For more ideas on how to treat your body to additive free foods, take a look at my Top 9 Superfoods.