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Color categories of fruits and vegetables offer healthy benefits

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

10-09-09

Oct. 7--Most people know that there are many benefits to maintaining a healthy diet. Longer lives, disease prevention and an ideal weight are all results of eating healthy.

But how can you know which foods to buy -- let alone which foods to eat? Now it may be easier than ever to decide.

Color is the key. If you know what you want to prevent or improve, there is probably a color associated with what you need.

Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals which are packed with vitamins and minerals. They can protect against things like the effects of aging, cancer and heart disease said Heather Boline, a registered dietitian at Freeman Health System.

Fruits and vegetables are categorized by color. These categories can help alert the healthy consumer of what benefits the fruit or vegetable has in store.

These color categories include red, blue/purple, yellow/orange, white and green.

Those in the white category, such as bananas, garlic, onions and potatoes, help with heart health, lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of some cancers. Cantaloupes, mangoes and sweet potatoes are all part of the yellow/orange category and help with the eye and heart health. Green grapes, kiwis, broccoli and spinach also help with vision and reducing the risk of cancer.

"Blueberries have the phytochemical anthocyanin which helps reduce age effects," said Boline.

If you are still unsure of how much of all these fruit and vegetables you need, there is a Web site that can figure it for you.

The site, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can be found at www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov. The site considers your age, gender and activity level to measure how many cups of "fruits and veggies" you need in a day.

The CDC also recognizes the significance of the colors of fruits and vegetables.

"To get a healthy variety, think color. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients," according to the CDC site.

To make the benefits of fruits and vegetables more available -- and more appetizing -- there are lots of things you can do, said Boline.

"Try to buy different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Buy juices that are 100 percent juice, not juices with high-fructose corn syrup," she said. "Try to keep fruit on your counter at home or on your desk at work. You're more likely to eat it that way."

Boline also suggests keeping some vegetables cut up in your fridge.

"You're more likely to eat them if (the vegetables) are already ready to eat," said Boline.

There are also some treats you can make if a carrot just won't satisfy your sweet tooth. Smoothies, she said, are easy to make and a good way to get children to eat more fruit.

Boline also suggested low-fat, plain yogurt and adding your own fruit, such as frozen blueberries.

"The fact that the CDC is promoting 'More Matters' says a lot about disease prevention," said Boline.

"Fruits and Veggies -- More Matters" is an initiative by the CDC and the Produce for Better Health Foundation to promote an increase in fruits and vegetables in everyone's diet.

"Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers," according to the CDC.

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