Did you know that the Egyptians ate mostly beige, grain-based diets in ancient times? When the Egyptian mummies were unearthed, they showed remarkable evidence of arthritis, diabetes and cancer. The typical American diet also features the brown and beige colors of meat and starches while fruits and veggies are scarce on the average dinner plate. What color is your plate? Is it colorful like the rainbow or a drab beige tone?
This year’s American Dietetic Association’s National Nutrition Month campaign was devoted to Eat Right with Color! The more colorful your meals, the more antioxidants you get. These compounds reduce overall cell damage and prevent chronic illness – such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension. Every color – green, yellow, orange, red, purple and even white contains different nutrients, each one offering healthy benefits to our body.
Think Yellow and Orange! These contain carotenoids, chemical compounds that protect against the type of oxygen damage that can harm your DNA. Is your kitchen beaming with those fall colors – carrots, sweet mangos, apricots, cantaloupes, pumpkin, acorn squash and sweet potatoes? This is the perfect season to substitute your regular mashed white potatoes with sweet potatoes topped with some caramelized onions.
For your eye health, add your greens – dark leafy spinach, broccoli or “trees” like your kids might describe them, kale, bok choy, swiss chard. Dive into this dark, rich color, high in lutein which protects our vision. Toss minced garlic, parsley and coarsely chopped spinach in a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil. It’s quick, simple and delicious!
There’s nothing blue about blackberries, strawberries, cranberries or grapes. This purple group contain anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that are heart healthy. How about a “super” fruit salad of sliced strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, mixed in with some orange juice? Prepare it early morning and by dinner, it will taste really good or blend these fruits together for your child’s purple shake breakfast.
Red is in the air. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, tomato juices, pink grapefruit and watermelon. Another heart healthy option when you prepare your homemade tomato sauce – blend fresh tomatoes and basil, onions, garlic, paprika, oregano and a dash of salt and add to a non stick pan. Cook for an hour at low temperature while including your favorites – if you’re a mushroom lover, slice two varieties of mushrooms for a hearty spaghetti sauce.
Last but not least, don’t forget your white group – onions, garlic, celery, endives. These contain allicin and flavonoids, both powerful and natural antioxidants. Can you imagine a life without onions and garlic – the essence of many of our dishes…Will you be eating like a rainbow today?