Eat the Rainbow!
All the colors you see in fruits and vegetables contain a substance called antioxidants. An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation, especially one used to counteract the deterioration of stored food products, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. So, what does that mean? Let us #breakitdown for you. Basically, an antioxidant is a guardian in your body against “free radicals." Free radicals are molecules that attack the healthy cells in our bodies. When our healthy cells are weakened by free radicals, we are more susceptible to develop diseases. Antioxidants stabilize free radicals; ultimately converting them into a a safer molecule. Antioxidants are known to be beneficial to your health by promoting healthy cell function and defending your body against diseases.
Now that we understand the science of antioxidants, let’s talk about how to incorporate them into your daily diet by eating the colors of the rainbow!
I know we’re all “berry” excited that this semester is starting because this means we’re one semester closer to graduating! Red fruits and vegetables contain an antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene has shown to decrease the risk of several chronic diseases. Cooking red produce in heat will help activate lycopene and make it more biologically available. Some fruits and vegetables that you can add into your diet to get your red-color fixings are tomatoes, red bell peppers, and even radishes which would all be very delicious as salad toppings. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try some red apples, cherries, watermelon or even a pomegranate.
“Orange” you glad fruits and veggies help protect our bodies? Foods with an orange color contain an antioxidant called beta-carotene. When we digest this, our body converts it to vitamin A! Vitamin A helps keep our eyesight and immune system healthy and functioning. Besides the obvious orange, you can also find beta-carotene in mangoes and papaya. If you’re looking for something a little less sweet, you can try sweet potatoes (roasted or baked) or some carrots (especially tasty with hummus).
These facts are “bananas!” Which are also a great option for a yellow fruit. Yellow fruits and veggies also contain the same beta-carotene antioxidant as the orange produce. You can easily add some lemon or pineapple to your water for a tasty twist. Pack a banana with your lunch to get some yellow fruit into your diet. Yellow corn is also a great option to add as a side or in a dish.
You’ll be "green" with envy over these antioxidant-packed vegetables. Green veggies contain antioxidants called carotenoids, which block the early stages of cancer. Try some spinach, broccoli, artichokes, or other dark, leafy greens (#kaleyeah)!
Your class load may be getting you down this week, but this antioxidant source will NOT leave you feeling "blue." Blueberries are a hearty and well-known source of antioxidants. Try buying a carton of blueberries and sticking them in the freezer for a quick snack. Blueberries and blackberries are common sources of the antioxidant called anthocyanin, which gives fruits a dark blue color. This chemical promotes brain health and contains anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.
We are going to “drop the beet” for you on this next tip. Some purple foods that are rich in antioxidants are beets, red or purple grapes, eggplant, purple potatoes, and plums also contain anthocyanin.
For a bonus, we are going to tell you about antioxidants in fruits and veggies that you don’t see on the rainbow. Mushrooms, potatoes, garlic, onions, and parsnips contain the antioxidant anthoxanthin, which helps fight off diseases such as cancer with its antioxidative effects!
There you have it, folks--all the benefits of having a rainbow on your plate. We hope you have fun adding some color to your diet!
Stay Healthy, Ospreys!