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To get a healthy variety, think in color!

Do you know what are the colors of health?San Diego Nutrition Network

Spring Into Health:

Eating through the Rainbow!

MIchelle Murphy Zive

by Michelle Murphy Zive, M.S., R.D.Eat 5 a Day logo


There’s no better time than now to get healthy by eating the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available as the weather turns warmer. And did you know that the more color a fruit or vegetable has, the more vitamins it contains? By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of all different colors, you can ensure that you and your children are getting many nutrients to be the healthiest you can be.

Follow the Rainbow!Sofia primavera 07


Fruits and vegetables can be divided into the colors of the rainbow: red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple, and white. Each color group is rich in specific nutrients, especially phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are found in plant foods and are linked to lower rates of cancer, heart disease and other diseases. The Produce for Better Health Organization has created a list of health benefits of each color and the produce that belongs in each of the color groups.

Red- The red group helps with memory, heart and urinary tract health and protects against some types of cancers. This group contains the phytochemicals lycopene and anthocyanins. Red fruits and vegetables include red apples, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, pink/red grapefruit, red pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, beets, red peppers, radishes, red onions, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes.

Yellow & Oranged- Yellow and orange. These colors protect against some types of cancer, help with vision (especially night vision), keep the heart healthy and maintain the immune system. Foods bright with yellow and orange contain Vitamin C and the phytochemical vegetales mixtoscarotene. Foods in this group include yellow apples, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lemon, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, yellow pears, persimmons, pineapples, tangerines, carrots, yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, pumpkin, yellow squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and yellow tomatoes.

Green-. This is the color most often associated with vegetables. Green colors protect against some types of cancers, keep bones and teeth strong and help with vision. Green produce contains the phytochemical lutein. Choose darker green lettuces, such as spinach instead of iceberg lettuce, to boost your vitamins. Green foods include avocados, green apples, green grapes, honeydew, kiwifruit, limes, green pears, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, green beans, green cabbage, celery, chayote squash, cucumbers, endive, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, green onion, okra, peas, green pepper, sugar snap peas, spinach, watercress and zucchini.

Blue and Purple-. Fruits and vegetables that are bright blue and purple help prevent the effects of aging. They also protect against some types of cancers, help with memory function and urinary tract health. These foods contain the phytochemicals anthocyanin and phenolics. Blue and purple produce include blackberries, blueberries, black currants, dried plums, purple figs, purple grapes, plums, raisins, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, eggplant and potatoes (purple fleshed).

White-. White fruits and vegetables, though colorless, actually contain many vitamins and phytochemicals, including allacin. White, tan, and brown produce help keep cholesterol levels healthy that already are in the normal range, as well as maintain heart health and lower the risk of some types of cancers. White fruits and vegetables include bananas, brown pears, dates, white peaches and nectarines, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, jicama, mushrooms, onions, potatoes (white fleshed), shallots, turnips and white corn.

How Much??

Eat 5 a Day logoIn the past, it was recommended that you eat five fruits and vegetables a day. Ever heard of the 5 a Day campaign? The campaign has simplified what a serving of fruit or vegetable is by measuring servings in cups. The 5 a Day program now recommends that adults eat 4 to 6.5 cups per day and children eat 3 to 5 cups a day, depending on sex, age and activity level. But what is a cup? A small apple is a cup and 15 baby carrots equal a cup. To find out exactly how many fruits and vegetables go to www.mypyramid.gov.For more information about eating fruits and vegetables, log onto www.sdnnonline.org.

The San Diego and Imperial Regional Nutrition Network is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Program. An equal opportunity provider and employer, through the California Nutrition Network Healthy, Active Families. For information about the California Food Stamp Program, please call 1-800-952-5253

Funded in part, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Program. An equal opportunity provide and employer, through the California Nutrition Network. For information about the California Food Stamp Program, please call 1-800-952-5253

Michelle Murphy Zive, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Regional Nutrition Network and 5 a Day campaigns and the mother of three.


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