Fighting disease sounds serious, and it is, but that doesn’t mean it has to always be hard work. In fact, there are some ways to ward off cancer and other serious diseases that could actually be fun and easy.
If preventing some possible disease body invaders were as easy as preventing an invasion from evil space aliens by whistling a happy tune, wouldn’t we just do it every day? Being happy and having a positive attitude certainly is one way to stay healthy, and recent scientific research is also proving the adage – “You are what you eat!”
A “Justice League of Health”
Scientists the world over have found that certain nutrients have been proven to help in fighting off cancers and other diseases. These nutrients are not drugs, or medicines, or some kinds of rare items you would have to travel to China to get. They can be found right in your supermarket in all kinds of simple and fun to eat foods. Just like superheroes that fight off other kinds of attackers and dress in colorful capes and tights, so most of these foods are the most brightly colored ones. And like a “Justice League of Health,” these powerful disease-fighting foods are even often referred to as The Super Foods. Sorry, we aren’t talking about M&M’s! But superfoods are a rainbow of red, blue, purple, yellow, orange and green goodness that should be included in a day’s meals, snacks, nibbles, bites, and gobbles. Researchers say that adding at least 10 of the most recognized superfoods to your diet is the surest way to improve your health and ward off serious illness for your kids, you, your whole family.
A Rainbow of Nutrition
Now getting back to the rainbow of colors—the cool thing is that each color, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables, has its effects on your body and health. Each different color in food relates to different phytonutrients. These nutrients have powerful antioxidants, which are what can protect the body from damaging effects.
Health and wellness experts recommend that you try to choose three different colors to include in your meal menu plans.
Natural plant pigments called “lycopene” or “anthocyanins” color Red fruits and vegetables. These are some examples of the red group: Red apples, Beets, Red cabbage, Cherries, Cranberries, Pink grapefruit, Red grapes, Red peppers, Pomegranates, Red potatoes, Radishes, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon.
Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural plant pigments called “carotenoids.” Some examples of the orange/yellow group include: Sweet potatoes, Pumpkins, Carrots, Yellow apples, Apricots, Butternut squash, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Lemons, Mangoes, Nectarines, Oranges, Papayas, Peaches, Pears, Yellow peppers, Persimmons, Pineapple, Rutabagas, Yellow summer or winter squash, Sweet corn, Tangerines, Yellow tomatoes, Yellow watermelon
Green fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigment called “chlorophyll.” Some examples of the green group include: Green apples, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Bok Choi, Kale, Spinach, Green Peppers, Artichokes, Asparagus, Avocados, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Green grapes, Honeydew melon, Kiwi, Lettuce, Limes, Green onions, Peas, Zucchini
Blue/purple fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called “anthocyanins.” These are some examples of the blue/purple group: Blackberries, Blueberries, Eggplant, Figs, Juneberries, Plums, Prunes, Purple Grapes, Raisins
And just like the white hats worn by cowboys in the old movies – even though they’re not vibrant, some white foods are the “good guys” too! White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called “anthoxanthins.” Some examples of the white group include: Bananas, Cauliflower, Garlic, Ginger, Jicama, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes, Turnips
But what about the fun? Yes, the super great foods talked about so far have been mainly fruits and vegetables, which are juicy and tasty and can be prepared in some fun ways — but there are other foods as well, that are excellent choices to help in disease protection, and two are even treats!
One you will truly love is dark chocolate—the darkest, deepest color reflects the most concentration of cocoa, and the best antioxidant protection. And the other is honey, another sweet delight, the more deeply toned and brown, the more concentration of antioxidants it contains.
Fun and Games
How can your family get into a wider exploration of all those juicy colors? Here are some food games some moms have used with great success.
With a little extra to go toward your food bill for the week, a combined food, fun and nutritional event is a trip to the grocery, or preferably a farmers’ market, and with a challenge, choose a specified number of the most colorful and unusual variety of fruits and vegetables as possible. At home, a kind of blank canvas can be a tortilla or pizza crust, for the whole family or individual ones, to be filled with a palate of colorful cuisine! Create the most colorful, imaginative dish with the newly found ingredients. Bake this food art, and enjoy the tasting.
Who Can Guess the Fruit or Veggie?
Ahead of time, prepare several choices of vegetables or fruits from the color list—cook them or serve raw as needed. You might want to use one old standby but choose some new ones. You can make this a blind challenge, tasting and guessing the color, and/or name. Whoever can make the correct choices to win an appropriate healthy food prize.
Bottom line? If we are what we eat – be a Rainbow!