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April 29, 2010 Volume 31, No. 29

Color-coding healthy foods

Serving fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors isn’t just a good way to liven up the dinner table. It’s also a smart technique for eating a healthier diet, says MU Extension nutrition specialist Glenda Kinder.

“It’s important to eat a wide variety of colorful orange/yellow, red, green, white and blue/purple vegetables and fruits every day,” Kinder says. Since each color group protects body tissues in its own way, the best way to power up your plate — and please your taste buds — is to eat a variety of colors and choices within each group.

“You will benefit from each group’s unique array of nutrients, as well as essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that each color group has to offer alone and in combination,” she says. The 2,000 pigments in plant foods not only look delicious but also contain strong antioxidants, health-promoting substances that neutralize free radicals, which damage or destroy healthy cells. “In general, the deeper the color of a fruit or vegetable, the more powerful its antioxidant action,” Kinder says.