Health Benefits of a Colorful Plate for Kids and Parents
It is that time of year when a lot of us are setting resolutions for the New Year. As I read through research on phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, I made the decision that one of my most important resolutions is going to be adding more color to my dinner plate. Well, actually, to my breakfast and lunch plates too! Read on and I’m sure you will agree. Phytonutrients are plant-based nutrients found mostly in fruits and vegetables. They are also found in whole grains, tea, nuts and beans.
Phytonutrients are the substances in plants that give each of them their unique colors. To get a full range of health benefits from them, be sure your plates have a rainbow of color every day. Studies show that, in general, more than 65 percent of all Americans run short in the entire food group categories listed below in their daily food intake. \Research evidence shows that there are health benefits that come with a diet that includes plenty of foods that contain phytonutrients, like fruits and vegetables. There are more than 25,000 phytonutrients that have been identified, but to keep it simple, some of the main ones have been divided into five color categories along with a few of their health benefits. Some food examples are given in each category below to give you an idea, but actually, most vegetables and fruits will fall into one of the general categories below.
RED FOOD GROUP
Eating foods from the red fruit and vegetables group has been linked to lower risk of prostate cancer and may help reduce DNA damage to your cells.
- Red apples
The phytonutrients in this group are Lycopene and Ellagic acid.
PURPLE and BLUE FOOD GROUP
The blue and purple fruits and vegetables group helps support heart and brain health, help with aging and help promote healthy cells.
The phytonutrients in this group are anthocyanidins and resveratrol. Anthocyanidin, found in berries and grapes, may help increase verbal memory performance in people with some mild challenges in the thinking process. Resveratrol can help as defense against fungus and has antioxidant properties.
GREEN FOOD GROUP
Green fruits and vegetables help to support healthy cells, lungs, arteries and vision. They also may help to maintain healthy liver function.
- Green cabbage
- Green beans
- Green tea
Phytonutrients in the green group are EGCG (green tea), Isiothiocyanate (i.e. Broccoli, cabbage and kale), Lutein/zeaxanthin (i.e. Green vegetables and lettuce) and Isoflavones (i.e. Soy products).
WHITE FOOD GROUP
The fruits and vegetables in the white group may help maintain healthy bones and help support circulatory health.
The phytonutrients in the white group are allicin and quercetin. Allicin is found in garlic, and in recent studies it has been shown to reduce total cholesterol and blood pressure. Quercetin is commonly found in onions and apples and is a powerful antioxidant.
YELLOW and ORANGE FOOD GROUP
The fruits and vegetables in the orange group have powerful antioxidants, provide vitamin A to the body and can help boost the immune system.
The phytonutrients in this group are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, hesperitin and beta-cryptoxanthin. Alpha-carotene can be converted in the body to vitamin A and is found in foods like pumpkin and carrots. Beta-carotene is found in carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupes and is a powerful antioxidant. Beta-carotene is believed to help boost the immune system. Hesperitin is found in citrus fruits and provides strong antioxidant protection for your cells. Beta-cryptoxanthin is found in foods like pumpkin, peppers and fruits such as tangerines. It may help reduce the risk of development of inflammatory disorders.
To get an adequate amount of phytonutirents, I recommend eating fresh food whenever possible because not all phytonutrients survive heat and processing. Your local farmers’ market can be a great source of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains.
So, are you with me in my new year’s resolution of adding more color to your plates? I hope so.
Have a happy and healthy holiday season!