Include Colorful Foods on Your Plate for Good Health

Posted: September 19, 2011

Healthful eating and lifestyle practices - Thomas column Mar. 20, 2011

     March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus on healthful eating and lifestyle practices to improve our health. This year’s theme is Eat Right with Color which reminds us to choose healthy foods in a variety of colors for good health. Colorful foods especially fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients  which helps us to stay healthy and energetic, maintain weight, protect against the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

     Select a variety of colors when shopping for fruits and vegetables, and for additional options in the color palette, choose frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables available throughout the year. Kathy Dischner, Cornell Cooperative Extension extension educator, provides the following information about foods which add color to your plate.

     Red produce contain nutrients to maintain heart health and memory function, and possibly lower the risk of certain cancers while protecting urinary tract health. Try red apples, cherries, cranberries, red peppers, beets, and tomatoes.

     Blue and purple colored-produce contain nutrients called anthocyanines and phenols, which are powerful antioxidants that provide anti-aging benefits. Choose blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins, purple grapes and black olives. Add purple cabbage, eggplant and even specialty varieties like purple peppers and potatoes to salads and main dishes.

     Green-colored produce helps to maintain vision health, lowers the risk for certain cancers, and helps to maintain strong bones and teeth. Select green apples, pears and grapes, broccoli, and dark greens like spinach, kale, collards, mustard and turnip.

     Yellow- and orange-colored varieties provide vitamins and nutrients that also help to maintain a healthy immune system as well as protect heart and vision health, and reduce cancer risk. Pick yellow apples, cantaloupe, lemons, peaches and nectarines oranges, tangerines, mangoes and pineapple. Include butternut and delicate squash, pumpkin, carrots, sweet corn, rutabagas and yellow peppers and potatoes.

     White-colored produce contain substances called allicins that help to reduce cancer risk and maintain cell integrity. While-colored fruits and vegetables include bananas, white nectarines and peaches, brown pears, mushrooms, onions, garlic, white potatoes and turnips.

     Add some color into your meals by trying this recipe for a spicy fruit cup.

Spicy Fruit Cup


2 cups fresh strawberries

1 can (16 ounce) mandarin orange sections

1 can (16 ounce) pears

1 can (16 ounce) pineapple chunks, in its own juice

1 cup juice, orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

     Cut strawberries in half. Open and drain mandarin oranges. Open and drain pears. Slice the pears. Open the pineapple, do not drain the juice. Put the un‐drained pineapple, orange juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Stir together. Carefully stir in the mandarin oranges, pears, and strawberries. Refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours before serving.

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Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.