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Rainbow in My Cart
Photo: David Kay
What do you typically think about as you cruise the produce section? I think about completing my shopping list. I hunt out sale items and zero in on the best deals. I look for bumps and bruises and freshness. Then I try to gather up my selections as quickly as possible while keeping one eye on the whereabouts of my children. One thing I rarely think about is color—that is, the rainbow of colors I should be creating in my cart with the wide variety of fruits and vegetables I ought to be purchasing.

Fruits and vegetables of all shades contain various phytochemicals (plant-derived compounds that are believed to offer health benefits though they are not considered essential nutrients) and antioxidants (compounds that neutralize free radicals and repair the cell damage that leads to aging and chronic conditions). It is important to note that the deeper the color the greater the nutritional value. In other words, dark green spinach in your salad beats pale iceberg lettuce every time.

These foods promote heart health, memory function, and urinary tract health in addition to lowering the risk of some cancers. Choices include cherries, cranberries, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, red apples, red grapefruit, pomegranates, tomatoes, beets, red peppers, radishes, radicchio, rhubarb, and red onions.

Besides possible cancer protection and heart health, these sunny colored foods boost your vision and your immune system. Try apricots, yellow apples, lemons, oranges, mangoes, peaches, papaya, yellow pears, cantaloupe, pineapple, carrots, corn, yellow peppers, pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow summer squash, or sweet potatoes.

Going green on your plate is a great way to strengthen your bones and teeth, sharpen your eyes, and ward off cancer. Green apples, green grapes, honeydew, kiwifruit, limes, avocadoes, artichokes, arugula, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, peas, spinach, green peppers, zucchini, and lettuce are only a few of your green produce options.

Similar to red fruits and vegetables the blue-purple foods fight cancer and urinary tract infections. They also benefit brain health and vision. The blues and purples aren’t as plentiful as the greens, reds, or yellows, but you can still find plenty of blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, figs, plums, raisins, purple cabbage, eggplant, and endive to ensure a nutritionally complete shopping cart.

Have you noticed that every color fruit and vegetable reduces the risk of cancer? The white and brown varieties additionally protect your heart health by helping you maintain good cholesterol levels. Onions, garlic, bananas, brown pears, cauliflower, ginger, parsnips, cauliflower, turnips, dates, and leeks should all find their way into your shopping cart.

Variety truly is the key. Since each fruit and vegetable contains its own unique blend of nutrients, your diet must include a little of everything in order to realize the greatest benefit. Next time you navigate the produce section, remember the pot of golden health awaiting you at the end of your raw food rainbow.

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By Hannah Henry. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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