Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rainbow Connection: A Nutritional Color Chart

source: Learning ZoneXPress
A few years ago the CDC thought of a new tactic to encourage all of us to eat more fruits and vegetables.  The old “5 a day” apparently wasn’t enough, so they came up with a colorful new campaign of “eating your colors” to get more of a variety in our consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Generally-speaking, the brighter, more vibrant the fruit or vegetable shade, the more nutritious it is.  It’s funny because when Elias starts turning a yellowish-orange hue, I know he’s had too many foods loaded with Carotenoids and we need to switch it up with a different-colored fruit or vegetable.  No, that’s not a myth, kids can turn orange a lot quicker than adults if they eat a lot of orange/red/yellow fruits and vegetables in close succession! 

As tempting as it is to give baby what he/she favors the most so he/she will eat, it’s healthier and safer to give a variety. Period.  “Too much of a good thing” really does exist, even with the most nutritious of foods. Had too many dark green vegetables?  Your baby might become constipated from the great dose of iron, especially if your baby drinks formula.  Too many carrots or other foods containing vitamin A?  Your baby may turn harmlessly orange, but too much vitamin A can cause developmental problems in children and liver problems in children and adults alike (just like all of the problems caused the acne drug Accutane or “isotrenoin,” a derivative of vitamin A).  Too many nitrates from certain vegetables can cause anemia (see article) However, don’t get scared to death.  As long as your child maintains a healthy diet with a wide range of foods you won’t experience these problems.

So what about this color chart?
Since color isn’t always an indication of nutrition, the color chart is not intended to be seen as the only nutrients your child needs, but it is a great tool to make produce shopping easier if you’re not sure what to get.  Some days the produce section seems daunting, especially if I feel like we’ve tried everything, so a color chart has been especially helpful:

Why? Foods are red from the pigment called “lycopene,” a powerful antioxidant which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers and in some studies have diminished the effects of prostate cancer, even if the person already has it.
Food sources: strawberries, raspberries, beets, cherries, cranberries, tomatoes (when cooked have the highest amount of Lycopene!) red grapes, red apples, watermelon, red pears (with skin), blood oranges, red bell peppers, pomegranates.
Why? Green fruits and vegetables contain lutein (a vital nutrient for ocular health) vitamin C, beta-carotene. 
Food sources: Green apple (with skin), green grapes, kiwi, avocado, green pears (with skin), honeydew melon, lettuce, limes, etc.
Dark Green
Why dark green? Dark green vegetables & “green leafies” possess the same nutrients as other green vegetables, but they are an even greater source for calcium and iron.
Food sources: Spinach and baby spinach, broccoli, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, green bell peppers, asparagus, arugula or “rocket,” green beans. 
Yellow & Orange
Why? Yellow and orange fruits/vegetables contain Carotenoids, substances that include alpha-carotene and the better-known beta-carotene which, when metabolized, turns to vitamin A. They also contain vitamin C, and Lycopene, but in lower doses than in red fruits/vegetables.
Food sources: Winter squashes (butternut, acorn, pumpkin) oranges, mangoes, peaches, nectarines, sweet potatoes, tangerines, yellow summer squash, yellow watermelon, pineapples, carrots, cantaloupe, yellow bell peppers, apricots, golden raisins, yellow pears (with skin.)
Blue & Purple
Why? Blue and purple fruits/vegetables contain lutein, vitamin C.  They also contain flavonoids, a polyphenol (antioxidant) that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may also prevent certain kinds of cancers.
Food sources: Concord grapes, blackberries, blueberries, plums, grapes, pomegranates, raisins, prunes, red grapes, purple figs, purple potatoes, blue corn, purple cabbage, Belgian endive, eggplant.

Since there is such a wide array of fruits and vegetables in this world, I can't imagine any chart being all-inclusive, but I did try to make this as varied as possible.  These are all items I usually come across at the local supermarkets or farmers' markets.  Speaking of which, since it's the summertime, take a look at your local farmers' markets!  Organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables lovingly grown on a small scale and sometimes less expensive than the produce at the grocery store.  Even if you're paying a few cents more, remember these fruits and veggies traveled a lot less to make it to your table!  Most produce found at large chain stores was manufactured, not grown.  They were bred and altered so they could withstand the long trip to the store in one piece.  Don't even get me started on store-bought tomatoes!

Once again, I apologize for the large gap in between articles.  My son is very mobile right now, we've moved, and I've also fallen ill recently and I'm keeping my fingers crossed I get better soon!  It's no biggie, I just mentioned it for a few extra prayers here and there :)  I'm already working on my next article: the FIRST BIRTHDAY CAKE!  Can you believe my son is almost a year old???  It's going to be wheat and egg free.  Don't forget to share!
-Elias's mommy