Color Your Plate Healthy

Plate full of colorful, nutritious foods

“Just because it’s cold outside it doesn’t mean you can’t continue eating fresh, healthy foods packed with nutrients. A variety of options of fresh produce are available at most grocery stores,” says Paula S. Barry, MD, a primary care physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Longwood.

It has been said that the more colors on your plate -- and the more shades of vegetables and fruits your meal includes -- the more nutrients you’re eating. This means that an easy way to make sure that you're eating a healthy meal is simply to look at how many different colors your food represents.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most colorful and healthy “super foods.”

Some of the most colorful and healthy "super foods"

Citrus: Bright yellows and greens

Citrus fruits, which encompass the usual suspects - lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits - aren’t just bright and cheerful looking; they also come with healthy benefits and are at their juiciest in the winter. 

Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C - one medium orange delivers more than 100 percent of your daily dose. In addition, studies have shown that nobiletin, a flavonoid extracted from tangerines, helps to prevent obesity and offers protection against type 2 diabetes.

Pomegranates: Ruby reds

Pomegranates, which originated from Persia, have a juice rich in antioxidants - compounds that block the activity of other chemicals known as free radicals, which have the potential to cause cancer. 

Studies have shown that just a cup of pomegranate juice might help prevent free radicals from developing “bad” LDL cholesterol, in effect, lowering high cholesterol levels. It’s also been said that this red juice can lower high blood pressure and help reduce blockages (atherosclerosis) in the arteries of the heart.

Kale: Rich greens

Dark leafy greens, such as kale flourish in the cold of winter. In fact, a frost has been known to sweeten the leaves of kale. These greens are particularly rich in vitamins A, C and K and are especially good for women of childbearing age. There’s just a little over 30 calories in one cup of raw kale which contains protein and Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Potatoes: Creamy purples, reds, oranges and white

Potatoes sometimes get shortchanged for being a white starch and thought to hold little to no nutritional value, like white rice or white bread. However, potatoes, especially sweet potatoes and russet (skin on) potatoes, are packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and low sodium. They are a whole food that contain an excellent source of two immunity boosters - vitamins C and B6, delivering 25% and 29% of your daily needs per medium potato, respectively. 

Potatoes are also a good source of fiber and folic acid, which has been known to help in the prevention of heart disease and stroke, as well as memory loss, osteoporosis and sleep problems. Folic acid is especially important for women of childbearing age. Purple potatoes can add an especially nice accent color to your plate and have even more healthy nutrients. These include antioxidants that have been linked to lowering the risk of cancer, as well as reducing inflammation.

Squash – Vibrant oranges and yellows

Butternut, acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash are some of the most popular assortments of winter squash and they are all excellent choices in the cold season. 

Want to feel fuller with lower calories? One cup of cooked winter squash contains only 80 calories and is high in vitamins A and C, as well as being a good source of vitamins B6 and K, potassium and folate. These super foods are also packed with helpful antioxidants and omega-3s, not to mention elements for a strong immune system to help protect against colds and flu.

“Although many experts differ on what food is the most nutritious or has the most antioxidants and disease fighting capabilities, it is certain that eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables is important,” Dr. Barry says. “Regular exercise, portion control, and getting your daily dose of these ‘super foods’ can help keep you in tip-top shape and ready for the warm weather that lies ahead.”

Looking for additional healthy eating tips or to create a long-term health and wellness plan?

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