Taste the Rainbow!
No—I’m not talking about Skittles or anything else having to do with Red 40, Yellow 5, or Blue 10.
I’m talking about nature’s candy. You know…Fruits and vegetables? While you just might be one of the healthy few that nosh on produce in abundance, the vast majority of Americans are not getting nearly enough. Quite often, fruits and veggies never even make it into the cart (except maybe in the form of frozen French fries or ketchup) and if they do, those poor nutritional gems are relegated to the back of the fridge where they are soon forgotten and sentenced to wither and wilt behind the pickles.
Of course you already know that fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But that’s not all! Research has shown that the very same compounds that make a strawberry red, a blackberry purple, or a pepper green act as powerful, health-protective agents in our bodies. These compounds, called phytochemicals, have been shown to reduce rates of prostate cancer, lung and heart disease, tumor growth, skin cell damage, cataracts and macular degeneration, blood clot formation, and DNA damage—just to name a few! But how can these ‘plant chemicals’ have such a huge impact on our health?
Every day, your body is under attack. Besides all the various bugs and viruses your system may be fighting off at the moment, our very own molecules can wage war against us! Free radicals are one such assailant. Produced in many different ways such as normal metabolic activity, ultraviolet radiation from the sun, nuclear radiation, or even aerobic activity, free radicals are highly reactive molecules that scavenge our tissues for electrons to steal. In the long run, this molecular nit-picking can contribute to chronic disease. Dietary anti-oxidants and phytochemicals work to prevent this damage by donating electrons, which puts these free radicals into a more stable state. And, the better variety of anti-oxidants and phytochemicals you have in your diet, the better equipped you will be to ward off disease and illness.
Despite all of the many well-publicized benefits of a diet full of fruit and vegetables, over 75% of Americans still fail to meet the recommended five servings each day. How do you measure up? Are you lacking? Have the winter months left your dinner plate looking a little drab? Not to worry! With spring on our doorstep and summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to add a bit of color to your diet. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, here is a handy link from Cooking Light that highlights the best spring has to offer along with healthy recipes to try. Fruits and veggies eaten in season not only look and taste amazing, but will also ensure your body can fight the good fight for many years to come!