by guest blogger
Margaret Lewin, MD,FACP
Medical Director, Cinergy Health
Eat the rainbow! Not only do foods of varying colors pack a wealth of nutrition, they also look ever so enticing on the plate!
• Red fruits (think cranberries, grapes) and vegetables (think beets, red peppers, tomatoes) are high in the anti-oxidants which help fight heart disease, cancer and age-related memory loss.
• Orange and yellow fruits such as citrus and vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash, carrots) are high in beta-carotene for healthy skin and eyes, Vitamins A and C and anti-oxidants.
• Green leafy vegetables (think kale, spinach, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) – the darker the green the better – broccoli, bok choy, avocados, and snow peas. They are high in fiber and most are rich in folic acid, vitamins A, C and K and potassium.
• Blue and purple fruits (grapes, raisins) and vegetables (purple cabbage, blue potatoes, black beans) are high in fiber, anti-oxidants and many important trace elements.
• White and tan fruits (pears, dates) and vegetables (garlic, ginger, mushrooms, shallots, onions, turnips) add spice, phytochemicals and anti-oxidants to any meal. Cauliflower is rich in vitamins C, K, and folate, and is one of the cruciferous vegetables that reduce the risk of many cancers.
• Brown grains, seeds, legumes (beans, lentils, split peas) and nuts are high in fiber, zinc, iron, folic acid, minerals, healthy fats and B-vitamins.
Avoid processed foods. Take advantage of your time at home to multi-task by making your own soups and stocks and steaming some fresh vegetables while you prepare the main course (note that micro-waving removes many valuable vitamins). Cook larger portions than you need and freeze the extras in individual portions to reheat for lunch or to thaw quickly when you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table.
Take a list with you when you shop – with a mind to whole meals containing those fresh fruits and vegetables of varying colors as well as whole grains.
Read package labels carefully. Pay attention to serving size (for example, you’re likely to be surprised that those little boxes of dried pasta contain 8 servings!) and choose products low in hydrogenated and saturated fats, salt and added sugar, altogether avoiding products containing trans fats.
Inspect fruits and vegetables carefully for signs of spoilage, store them properly, and wash them immediately before using.
Get locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables when possible, in order to maximize nutrition, decrease the risk of contamination and save money.
Have fish at least twice weekly – it’s high in protein, low in calories and fat, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that dementia and impairment of thinking are significantly decreased, the incidence of heart attacks and sudden deaths are decreased by more than one-third, and the risk of death from all causes is decreased by more than 15%... and benefits can be seen in as little as 3 - 4 months! Fish’s ability to reduce inflammation can decrease symptoms of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and it may also help to control diabetes.
Take time to enjoy your meals, eating slowly to decrease portion size and to help digestion.
So… celebrate good nutrition by trying at least one new seasonal vegetable or fruit every week of this month, going to the Internet to find new and interesting ways to serve them, and making your meals brilliant with color and nutrition.
Dr. Margaret Lewin specializes in nutrition and prevention who believes ‘you are what you eat’. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology.