Friday, July 6, 2012

Patriotic Plates: Red, White and Blue Nutrition


Show your colors for healthful eating

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As the nation's colors fly high over Independence Day-inspired menus, let's take a look at how red, white and blue can help create a healthy plate.
The natural pigments in foods are colorful clues to the nutrients within. Called "phytochemicals," these compounds found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and other plants provide a parade of protective effects such as curbing cancer, supporting immune function and improving heart, skin, brain and eye health. To tap into the benefits of this wonderful world of color, eat a variety of foods in every shade of the rainbow.
In Michelle Obama's new book, "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," the first lady writes that encouraging Americans to eat more fresh produce is one of the main reasons she planted her vegetable garden. So, from the South Lawn of the White House to acres of growing foods for markets and restaurants across the Southeastern U.S., let's taste the benefits of eating more reds, whites and blues.
Ravishing reds
Red fruits and vegetables contain the natural plant pigments lycopene and anthocyanin. Lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit, is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Adding a little fat, such as olive oil, to a fresh tomato salad helps the absorption of lycopene and betacarotene. Anthocyanins in red fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy and act as antioxidants.
  • Beets

  • Cherries

  • Cranberries

  • Pink grapefruit

  • Pomegranates
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries

  • Red apples

  • Red cabbage

  • Red grapes

  • Red peppers

  • Red potatoes

  • Rhubarb

  • Strawberries

  • Tomatoes

  • Watermelon
Wonderful whites
Forget the simplistic advice to "avoid all white foods." White vegetables such as onions and garlic contain the chemical allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer. Bananas and potatoes are good sources of potassium. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and the phytonutrient quercetin.
  • Bananas

  • Cauliflower

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Jicama

  • Mushrooms

  • Onions

  • Parsnips

  • Potatoes

  • Turnips
Other great whites
The white color of milk comes from the protein casein. White fish is good for you, too. While salmon and tuna get the big billing when it comes to nutrition because they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, white fish such as flounder, grouper, halibut and snapper are lower in total fat and are a great source of lean protein.
The red snapper with an aromatic herb and citrus broth served at the Optimist in west Midtown is a delicious and nutritious preparation. Enjoy it with a glass of white wine for added benefits. Red wine may have gotten the initial attention, but white wines contain heart-healthy effects, too, because it's the alcohol content that seems to provide the protective punch.
Refined white flour may lack the dietary fiber found in whole-wheat flour, but if it's enriched, you're consuming more of other nutrients such as folic acid, which is important for heart health and prevention of birth defects. That's why nutritionists say "make half your grains whole." So if you like white bread with barbecued pork, that's fine as long as you enjoy turkey on whole-wheat bread another time. Enriched white rice contains more folic acid than brown rice.
Brilliant blues
Blue-colored anthocyanin pigments in blueberries, blackberries, grapes, eggplant and raisins act as powerful antioxidants and may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Other studies have shown that eating more blue foods or beverages made with them is linked with improved memory function and healthy aging.
  • Blackberries

  • Blueberries

  • Eggplant
  • Grapes

  • Plums
Carolyn O'Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of "The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!" Email her at carolyn@corolynoneil.com.

1 comment:

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