Did you know that the more deeply hued a plant is, the better it is for your health? It’s true. That’s why a sweet potato will always give you greater nutrient density than a white potato and why a red delicious apple will provide more disease fighting capability than a yellow apple. This all boils down to compounds in plants called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are like the superheroes of the plant word, swooping in and reducing harmful free radicals from the body. Here are a few guidelines to get you started on your colorful quest!
- First, choose the five colors you want to focus on, and vary them daily.
- Make green a constant. This ensures that you’ll be consuming more leafy greens (like spinach), and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli) every single day.
- Choose actual food, not products as your color sources. That means no pills that promise a variety of fruits and vegetables in them or chips that claim to have spinach in them. These options are never a replacement for the real thing!
- No limits on any color that’s considered nonstarchy. For fruit and starchy vegetables, eat them liberally but if you’re overweight or struggle with balancing blood sugar, you won’t want to make these your ONLY color options. That means french fries should not be an option on a regular basis.
- Don’t forget about black and white options, like black beans, blackberries, tofu, and cauliflower.
- Challenge yourself to consume more than five! I use five as a reasonable goal to achieve, but truly, you should be getting closer to 10.
Finally, make your color goals a family affair. I take my kids grocery shopping with me and allow them to choose their colors for the cart. This gives them a connection to their food and an interest in the benefits that plants provide.
The Meadows Behavioral Healthcare family of programs realize that food choices impact the overall success of treatment. Many nutrients have connections with depression, anxiety, and addiction. Few treatment programs realize this connection and I am proud to be associated as a Senior Fellow of this organization.
Next month, I’ll cover the benefits of adding whole grains to your diet and reveal which grains have the most benefit!
Written by: Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, Senior Fellow of Meadows Behavioral