Eating a meal from the rainbow colors is tantalizing to the palate, is candy for the eyes and is packed with vital nutrients. Mothers have been drilling us to eat our vegetables, and for good reason, they are good for us. The scientific community has unlocked the code identifying which type of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins serve to build up immunity, nourish the body and protect from disease.

Antioxidants prevent and repair damage done by free radicals. The consequence of free radicals is that they damage healthy cells.  Think of a grand gala, with elegantly dressed, happily married couples dancing the night away and out of nowhere a handsome bachelor appears.  His presence distracts the harmony on the dance floor leading to unrest.  The security guards (antioxidant) escort the bachelor (free radical) out protecting the happy couples (healthy cells).

An accumulation of free radicals in the body can lead to health problems such as inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, arthritis, urinary tract disease and cancer.  Antioxidants are the counter balance providing protection against these disease processes. Examples of some antioxidants include:  Lycopene, Carotenoids Vitamin C, Lutein, Indole, polyphenols and anthocyanins flavonoids.  While fruits and vegetables offer many nutrients, the focus is on the antioxidant values they provide.

The antioxidant lycopene is found in red pigmented fruits and vegetables that help reduce damage from free radicals which may prevent heart disease, prostrate problems, cancer, and reduces the skin damage from the sun. Red pigmented foods include cherries, cranberries, red grapes, raspberries, red peppers, tomatoes and red onions.  These red foods help memory function, urinary tract health, and support a healthy heart.

The antioxidant Carotenoids (found in vitamin A) is found in orange pigmented fruits and vegetables that help prevent cancer, heart disease and strengthen our vision. Orange pigmented foods include oranges, cantaloupe, mango, peaches, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.  These orange foods provide the right amount of vitamin A, which is beneficial to the eyes and skin and protects against infections. Vitamin A also acts to boost the immune system.

The antioxidant Vitamin C, known as the anti-scurvy vitamin, is found in yellow pigmented fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C maintains healthy gums, expedites wound healing, helps make collagen found in the arteries and joints, protects against cataracts, and prevents inflammation.  It is found in yellow apples, pears, pineapples, lemons, yellow squash, winter squash and yellow corn.

The antioxidants lutein and indole are found in green fruits and vegetables. These substances can help lower cancer risk, improve eye health, and maintain strong bones and teeth.  Indoles are particularly beneficial for ridding the body of excess estrogen that can increase the risk of cancer to the reproductive organs.  They are found in green grapes, green apples, kiwi, honeydew melon, limes, asparagus, and cabbage family vegetables.

Polyphenols and anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables that provide extra protection against some types of cancer, urinary tract infections, improve circulation, prevent blood clots, and improve memory and vision. They are found in high concentrations in blueberries, blackberries, plums, prunes, eggplant, purple asparagus and potatoes, and purple cabbage.

The ideal daily consumption recommendation of fruits and vegetables is 8 to 13 servings per day.  Due to the sugar content of fruit and starchy vegetables, it is best to limit those to 2-3 servings per day and eat an unlimited amount of non- starchy vegetables. A serving is one cup of raw fruits or vegetables, or ½ cup cooked. A huge salad with multiple colored chopped vegetables can help attain the daily recommended servings.  Mothers instinctually know best!

This information is for educational purposes and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.