colorful fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are some of nature’s most beautiful creations, and I often find myself carting home a bagful of more produce than I know what to do with from the farmers market. Luckily, I have a bundle of ideas! Armed with the knowledge that colors in fruits and vegetables indicate a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, I don’t feel the least bit guilty spending most of my budget on produce. Buying a rainbow of fruits and vegetables helps you to make sure you’re getting all your vitamins naturally; here’s what they mean.

Red

Ripe red tomatoes and juicy watermelon share the benefits of lycopene, a nutrient that has been proven to help prevent several kinds of cancer. To get the most lycopene out of your tomatoes, cook them up in a tomato sauce, like the delicious one served atop this Pacific Halibut with Olives and Tomatoes.

Red fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and red-skinned apples, also contain anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. Consider including a serving of red fruit in your daily menu as a snack or a dessert, or add antioxidant-rich red peppers or beets to a salad or crudité platter.

Orange and Yellow

Orange and yellow fruits are generally very good sources of beta-carotene, which is connected to vitamin A in the body, an important vitamin for eye health. (Your mom wasn’t lying when she told you carrots were good for your eyes!) Carrots, as well as sweet potatoes, winter squash, apricots and yellow corn, are just some of the vegetables and fruits that supply you with beta-carotene.

The only yellow and orange fruits that don’t contain much beta-carotene are citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons and grapefruits. These are, however, a great source of vitamin C as well as the B vitamin folate, which helps prevent birth defects, so be sure not to neglect these orange and yellow foods!

Green

You were probably told all throughout your childhood to eat your greens, but do you know why? Green fruits and vegetables are an amazing powerhouse of vitamins and minerals: chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene, just to name a few. Not only are these minerals important for reducing your risk of cancer and blood pressure, but they also interact with other nutrients to help eye health, digestion and your immune system. In other words, mom was right!

With such a large variety of green fruits and vegetables, it’s easy to change it up often and find something that everyone in the family likes: asparagus, green peas, green onions and baby spinach are in season right now, with zucchini soon on its way. Here are a few of our favorite prep ideas:

Blue and Purple

Blue and purple fruits are important for mineral absorption, and the vitamins and minerals found in them — lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, ellagic acid, resveratrol, quercetin… — can work as powerful anticarcinogens. Like some red fruits, blue and purple fruits contain anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that may even help improve memory function… so be sure to remember to include blueberries, purple grapes, blackberries, plums and figs in your diet.

Eggplant is also a member of this group; combine it with zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers, onions and garlic to make a tasty ratatouille, and serve apricot clafoutis for dessert. See? Eating all your colors is easy!

image: adactio