Happy Independence Day!
I always look forward to spending the 4th of July with my family on Lake Michigan, followed by a big grill out before the fireworks. Instead of giving out nutrition tips this holiday, I thought it would be fun to talk about the different vitamins & minerals found in patriotic-colored foods! Take a look below for a Red, White & Blue themed lesson.
There are a plethora of red fruits and veggies such as strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, apples, and peppers, just to name a few! Red produce often contains high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and a little phytochemical called lycopene. A phytochemical is a natural, biologically active compound found in plants that doesn’t necessarily provide nutritive value, but still plays an important role in our bodies. There has been a BUNCH of research conducted on lycopene (from extraction processes & manufacturing to its effects on the human body). *Potential* benefits from consuming diets high in lycopene include decreased risk of cancer & cardiovascular disease, improved bone health, and others. For more detailed information on the benefits of lycopene, please click here.
Though we are told to stay away from “white foods” there are some that provide great benefit to us. One star comes to light as “the new kale” and that is… Cauliflower!!! This tree-like vegetable stands tall above the rest, providing us with fiber and vitamins C, K & B. Cauliflower is very versatile – and becoming more-so as the culinary world continues to incorporate it into new dishes such as pizza crusts, low-carb “rice”, purees, and mashes (think: mashed potatoes). Its mild flavor allows it to adapt to a variety of dishes, or simply be eaten alone with a little spice. Be warned though, cauliflower is a cuciferous vegetable (along with cabbage, bok choy, collards, kohlrabi, horseradish, broccoli, kale, turnips, etc.). What does this mean?! Many things… but first and foremost, it contains lots of fiber! The white color of fruits and vegetables is due to anthoxanthins. Can you name three more white fruits or veggies?! I’ll give you a hint… potatoes, turnips & mushrooms 😉
My favorite food of all time falls into this category: BLUEberries! Growing up in west Michigan ensured that I was picking the biggest & best berries every summer. The bluish tint in produce is attributed to anthocyanins. While the research on anthocyanins is still young, *potential* links have been made with cancer & cardiovascular disease reduction, and improved cognitive function. These benefits don’t really have anything to do with my love of these little blue dynamos… but I am glad they have an added bonus because I sure eat a lot of them!
As always, it’s best to eat a diet rich in variety. I challenge you to focus on the Reds, Whites, & Blues over the 4th of July – but eat a rainbow of colors in the weeks to come! For a complete guide to colorful nutrition, checkout this article from Today’s Dietitian.