In honor of National Nutrition Month (March), the American Dietetics Association (ADA) has launched the “Eat Right with Color” campaign. National Nutrition Month began in 1973 as National Nutrition Week and grew to National Nutrition Month in 1980. In 2010, the USDA recommended that Americans focus their eating behaviors toward a plant-based diet. Eating a rainbow of colors has become the focus of this month’s campaign. As a rule of thumb, the brighter and more deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are generally low in calories and high in fibers (both soluble and insoluble). Pay attention to preparation, however. A deep-fried sweet potato is in the same category as a deep-fried onion ring.
Vegetables: Green-yellow-orange vegetables are sources of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K.
Dark leafy greens: Greens such as kale and spinach contain calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, C and E
Cruciferous vegetables: These vegetables are members of the cabbage family and include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. An October 1996 article published by the ADA stated that 70 percent of studies reviewed showed a correlation between increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables and protection against cancer.
Root vegetables: Some examples of root vegetables are carrots, beets, sweet potatoes or yams, radishes, parsnips, ginger and onions.
Fruit: Fruits provide fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
Blue fruits: Fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, black grapes, mulberries, acai berries and chokecherries contain a polyphenolic compound called anthocyanins. This flavonoid offers potent antioxidant properties.
Olives: Olive oil is a preferable source of fat in comparison to vegetable oils, hydrogenated vegetable oils and animal fats. Olive oil is really just a cold-pressed fruit juice. Olive oil had a positive effect on blood cholesterol, and has been associated with cardio-protective properties.
Fruits: The food pyramid suggests two to four servings of fruit per day. An example of a serving size of fruit would be:
• One medium apple, orange or banana
• 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit
• 3/4 cup of fruit juice
Vegetables: The food pyramid suggests three to five servings of vegetables per day. An example of a serving size of vegetables would be:
• 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
• 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or raw
• 3/4 cup of vegetable juice