Use colour to guide healthy eating

Turns out Popeye was right. Spinach is good for you. Its dark green colour is a clue that disease-fighting antioxidants are present. Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, says colour intensity is a useful guide to antioxidant content. 

He says picking foods from different colour categories is a good guide to healthy eating.

For example:

  • Orange: carrots, mangoes, apricots, cantaloupes, squash, sweet potatoes
  • Orange-yellow: orange juice, tangerines, peaches, papayas, nectarines
  • Yellow: turnip, corn, melon, yellow-flesh potatoes
  • Green: avocados, spinach, peas, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choi, kale
  • White-green: garlic, onions, celery, endive, chives

 All the foods listed are high antioxidant foods.

What are antioxidants?
So what exactly, are antioxidants? Think of a sort of galactic war occurring in your arteries. Free radicals, which damage cells and cause oxidation (think of rust), disease and aging are the invaders.

Antioxidants are our bodies’ defenders, destroying the free radicals while booing the good HDL cholesterol and reducing the bad LDL cholesterol.

How often should we replenish the body’s supply? Because antioxidants are quickly absorbed, we should be spacing our fruit, vegetable and grain consumption throughout the day.

Protection against cancer
Heber says the dozen-a-day regimen can provide 70 per cent protection against cancer. It can also deliver a serious blow to what he calls “the epidemic of obesity”-the trend toward obesity leading, in turn, to an alarming increase in diabetes in North America.

However, considering the apparently unstoppable invasion of doughnut shops and hamburger joints, is it realistic to believe Canadians will turn on to carrots and green tea? The figures (numerical and physical) are not encouraging.

Next page: French fries, iceberg lettuce

French fries, iceberg lettuce
Statistics Canada lists bananas, apples, melons and oranges as our most popular fruits. Potatoes, lettuce and carrots are listed as our most popular vegetables, but there’s no specifics about how we eat them.

Americans have gone into greater detail and discovered that increasing potato consumption in their country is in the form of fat-saturated French fries and that iceberg lettuce, which contains water and some fibre but little in the way of important phytonutrients, is still the salad green of choice.

It’s fair to assume super-sized fries and iceberg lettuce figure large in Canadian diets, too.

Heber says it’s clear more fruits and vegetables are needed for improved health. In fact, he says if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, think about the possibilities with a dozen fruits and vegetables a day!