For health benefits, eat a full palette of foods

Eating a rainbow of colors every day is one of the best recommendations for keeping healthy. Every pigment provides a specific protection for plants. Research shows that humans receive similar benefits from eating colorful vegetables and fruit.

Blue/purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins and phenolics, which are powerful free radicals. These two anti-oxidants are believed to help reduce cancer and heart-disease risk and slow the aging process, in addition to having anti-inflammatory effects. The best sources of anthocyanins are beets, blackberries, black currants, blueberries, elderberries and purple grapes. The best sources of phenolics are prunes, raisins, eggplant and fresh plums. Other sources include boysenberries, cherries, cranberries, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple peppers and red grapes.

Menu ideas

Oatmeal with frozen berries

Yogurt with berries

Beet salad

Blueberry smoothie

Cranberry and goat cheese paté

Chicken salad with red grapes

Cranberry juice

Red vegetables and fruit contain a variety of phytochemicals including lycopene.

Foods rich in lycopene are known for their ability to fight heart disease and some cancers, such as prostate cancer. Lycopene-rich foods include: watermelon, pink grapefruit, tomatoes and tomato-based products (spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, tomato juice and tomato soup), papaya and guava. Use a small amount of fat, such as olive oil, when cooking tomato-based products to help the body absorb lycopene.

Find your daily dose of reds in red apples, cherries, red grapes, raspberries, watermelon, beets, strawberries, red cabbage, red onion, radishes, red peppers, rhubarb, tomatoes, chili peppers and red potatoes.

Menu ideas

Tomato soup

Roasted red pepper soup

Pasta with tomato sauce

Nachos with salsa

Green vegetables contain potent phytochemicals such as lutein and indoles. Leafy greens are rich in energizing and alkalizing chlorophyll. Go green every day with fruits and vegetables like avocados, green apples, asparagus, artichokes, Asian greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, cucumbers, green grapes, green beans, green cabbage, kiwi, spinach, leeks, limes, okra, pears, peas and zucchini.

Lutein is a powerful anti-oxidant known for its ability to protect your eyes and maintain good vision. Green vegetables such as spinach, collards, kale, Romaine lettuce and other leafy greens, green peas and broccoli, as well as honeydew melon and kiwi fruit, pack a lutein punch.

Indoles are believed to play a role in protecting against some cancers, such as breast and prostate. Foods rich in indoles include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rutabaga, Swiss chard, turnips and watercress.

Menu ideas

Steamed kale

Spinach lasagna

Greek salad

Kiwi kebabs

Chinese stir-fry

Cabbage rolls

Kale risotto

Lentils with Swiss chard

Spinach strawberry salad

Garlicky kale

Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables contain powerful anti-oxidants such as vitamin C, in addition to the phytochemicals, carotenoids and bioflavonoids. Deep orange vegetables and fruit contain beta-carotene, a disease-fighting anti-oxidant. Beta-carotene is believed to play a role in reducing risk of cancer and heart disease, promoting good eyesight, boosting the immune system and slowing the aging process.

Include orange and yellow fruits and vegetables in your diet every day like yellow apples, apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, grapefruit, lemons, mangos, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapples, pumpkin, yellow peppers and yellow raisins.

Menu ideas

Pineapple pizza

Corn on the cob

Honey-glazed carrots

Whatever food ideas you come up with, always ask yourself: Is my meal colorful?