Eat a Rainbow for Optimal Wellness

English: Fruit stall in a market in Barcelona,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A varied diet is the key to achieving optimal nutrient intake. In order to get all the great nutrients nature has to offer one must eat fruits and vegetables of all colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple and white. While some nutrients are available in supplement form, nothing can truly imitate nature. This post will analyze the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables I consume on a weekly basis and how I can optimize my antioxidant intake to help prevent disease. Try analyzing what you eat, awareness of your personal habits will allow you to find areas for improvement. I will analyze one item from each color class and discuss the benefits it has to ones’ health.

Tomatoes are a very popular selection out of the red group. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, carotene (especially lycopene), biotin and vitamin K.  Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), niacin, folic acid and dietary fiber .Lycopene is a red carotene that is protective against breast, colon, lung, skin and prostate cancers. Lycopene helps prevent these diseases by neutralizing harmful oxygen free radicals before they can do damage to cellular structures. (Murray & Pizzorno, 2005).  Unlike most fruits and vegetables tomatoes are a better source of lycopene when they are cooked and one’s body best absorbs this lycopene when you eat tomatoes with oil or cheese. Tomatoes contain p-coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid which can block the formation of nitrosamines which are cancer causing agents formed during normal digestion. (Packer & Colman, 1999).

Oranges are a powerhouse of vitamin C; in fact one orange almost equals 100% the RDA. Oranges are also a good source of B1 (thiamine), B2, B6, folic acid, pantothenic acid, carotene, pectin and potassium. The combination of vitamin C and flavonoids make oranges important wherever vitamin C is needed to function, such as the immune system, lens of the eye, adrenal glands and connective tissues. Consuming oranges also helps protect against cancer and helps fight viral infections. (Murray & Pizzorno, 2005).

Corn is a good supplier of vitamins, B1, B5, C and E as well as folic acid, magnesium and phosphorus. Yellow corn also has a carotenoid called lutein which can help protect against heart disease and macular degeneration. (Murray & Pizzorno, 2005). Lutein is also now being studied as a possible new treatment for minimizing free-radical related perinatal injury. (Perrone et al. 2009).

Brussel sprouts have a multitude of health benefits. One cup of brussel sprouts contains 4 grams of fiber, which helps prevent colon cancer. Brussel sprouts are a source of folic acid vitamin C, vitamin K, Vitamin B6, thiamine and potassium. Researchers in the Netherlands found people who consumed a diet high in brussel sprouts (10 oz./daily) had a 28% decrease in DNA damage which is significant because reduced DNA damage may translate to a reduced risk of cancer since mutations in DNA are what lead to the development of cancerous cells. (Murray & Pizzorno, 2005). This reduction in DNA damage may be due to the phytochemicals and flavonoids brussel sprouts contain. The flavonoids in brussel sprouts are called indoles. Indoles inactivate harmful estrogens that can promote the growth of tumors in estrogen-sensitive cells, especially breast cells. Indoles along with sulforaphane are anticancer compounds that stimulate the body to produce cancer fighting enzymes. . (Packer & Colman, 1999).

Garlic while often thought of as a seasoning of sorts is very good for one’s health. Studies have shown that as few as two or more servings of garlic a week may help prevent colon cancer. Substances found in garlic such as allicin, have been shown to protect colon cells from the toxic effects of cancer causing chemicals as well as stop the growth of cancer cells once they develop. (Murray & Pizzorno, 2005).Garlic is also rich in selenium which provides the building blocks for several enzymes that affect the antioxidant network. Garlic also has ajoene, a compound that prevents blood clots. The sulpher compounds in garlic have natural anti-fungal and antibiotic properties. Garlic extract has been shown to prevent breaks in DNA strands that are caused by free-radicals. (Packer & Colman, 1999).

Blueberries are excellent sources of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins, these are the compounds that give the berry its’ color. Researchers have found blueberries help to protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s.  (Murray & Pizzorno, 2005)

My personal analysis of my intake:

According to the CDC on the website, www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov , I should eat 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies daily based on my age and physical activity. (Go see what your recommended intake is!) I am falling short of that mark. I am deficient in the blue/purple category since I did not consume any fruit/veggies from this category  all week.   In order to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my daily routine it will require some additional planning. I have been missing breakfast all together lately; I plan to include all my fruit servings in this meal. A berry smoothie that includes blueberries, blackberries and raspberries is a great way to incorporate foods from the blue/purple group as well as get the entire days recommended intake of fruits, add some kale and you have a super good for you treat.. I also like to make a berry parfait with granola, plain yogurt and blueberries; this is good either for breakfast or as a sweet snack. I also need to eat more selections from the orange food group. I plan to include butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes baked or steamed, as side dishes with dinner at least twice a week and to eat baby carrots as a snack. Mainly my focus needs to be on getting adequate servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. I encourage my children to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and now I need to provide them a good example of how to do it. The more I know how important getting a balanced diet is, and being aware of what I am eating, inspires me that,I am  as much as possible to ensure the health of me and my family through nutrition.

How are you doing at eating a rainbow? We all have room for improvement, but until you really look at what your eating, you will not actually know how well you are doing.  Becoming more aware of what you choose to eat and feed your family is the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. Nutrition is a choice we have to make everyday.

Please share how you have incorporated better nutritional choices into your lifestyle, we all need inspiration 🙂

References

Murray, M. & Pizzorno, J. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (1st Ed.). New York: Atria Books

Packer, L. & Coleman, C. (1999). The Antioxidant Miracle. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Perrone, S., Longini, M., Marzocchi, B., Picardi, A., Bellieni, C., Proietti, F., Rodriguez, A., Turrisi, G., & Buonocore, G.. (2009). Effects of Lutein on Oxidative Stress in the Term Newborn: A Pilot Study. Neonatology, 97(1), 36-40. Retrieved December 11, 2010, from Health Module. (Document ID: 1932160951).

United States Center for Disease Control (n.d.) How Many Fruits and Vegetables do you need? Retrieved December 9, 2010 from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/index.html

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