March Is National Nutrition Month – Eat Right With Colors

by Elizabeth Cowie, MS, RD, LD

March may make one think of the beautiful colors of spring that start to emerge such as rainbows after a spring storm or rainbows that lead to a pot of gold at St. Pat’s Day. March is also a time to celebrate eating well. National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and social marketing campaign created by the American Dietetic Association that is celebrated each March. This year’s National Nutrition Month® focus is “Eat Right with Color”. Of course this pertains to the brilliant colors that come naturally in our fruits and vegetables and not those that are artificially manufactured in processed foods.

When shopping in the produce section of the grocery store or at the local farmer’s market, you’ll see a wide spectrum of color. The brilliant hues of our vegetables and fruit give us very specific health properties. In order to obtain the most health properties from our diet, we should eat a broad variety of produce from the whole color spectrum. This way, we will benefit from the full array of phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, that work synergistically to help slow the aging process and prevent many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and cataracts.

For example, fruits with a reddish color, such as tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit contain lycopene which might help prevent cancers, especially prostate cancer.
Beta-carotene and the other carotenoids give the gorgeous orange color in foods such as sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, yellow peppers, butternut squash and carrots. Eating these carotenoid-rich foods often, can help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, as well as help boost immunity.
Zeaxanthin is found in several yellowish foods such as corn, oranges, grapes and egg yolks. Lutein is found in green foods such as broccoli, peas, spinach and other green leafy vegetables. Both of these substances work together in our bodies and are known to help keep eyes healthy and prevent age-related blindness called macular degeneration and possibly cataracts.

Those fruits and vegetables with a blue and purplish hue such as eggplant, berries, plums and red grapes contain plant chemicals called anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage and may help reduce risk of some cancers, heart disease and stroke. They may even help improve memory functioning and slow the aging process.

Even vegetables with “no color” such as cauliflower, garlic, onions and mushrooms have amazing health benefits. These white foods contain pigments called anthoxanthins and chemicals such as allicin that help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and may help to prevent stomach cancer.
So, enjoy taking in the spring colors around you this March and “Eat Right with Color”.
Elizabeth Cowie, MS, RD, LD is the Store Nutritionist for Sappington Farmers Market Sappington Market is located at 8400 Watson Road, (314) 843-7848.

The Healthy Planet does not endorse any information contained in articles, advertisements or directory listings and we suggest consulting a health care professional before beginning any therapy or medical treatment.