Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes — A Rainbow of Health

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Leah Gardner, EPH Registered Dietitian

Hi everyone. Welcome back to Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes! Did you know that over 90% of Americans are not getting their recommended intake of fruits and vegetables each day? As a registered dietitian, I encourage my patients to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to promote good health by getting the vitamins and nutrients their bodies need. These foods are helpful for controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and are good for our eyes, brain, digestive system, and just about every other part of the body. Although it is widely known that eating fruits and veggies is beneficial to one’s health, many of us have trouble putting that knowledge into practice by getting the five or more (emphasis on more) servings recommended a day.

Countless studies have confirmed the importance of incorporating fruits and vegetables into our diets. Not only is it essential to get enough fiber, but it is also viable to get in a variety of colors. Many of the beneficial compounds in plants- such as vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, are linked to their color pigments, so it is important to eat a wide variety to get all the nutrients you need for optimal health.

Benefits of eating the rainbow:

Red: Grapefruit, watermelon, and tomatoes are rich in a phytonutrient called lycopene. They are known to benefit heart health, lower blood pressure and risk for prostate cancer, and reduce sun-related skin damage.

Orange + Yellow: Carrots, sweet potatoes, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, bananas, pineapples, oranges, pumpkin, squashes, and corn are all high in beta carotene, which is linked to vitamin A. These antioxidants are known to support eye health, our immune system, and lower the risk for heart disease and cancer.

Green: It’s time to go green! Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, green bell peppers, brussels sprouts, green beans, green cabbage, and green herbs are all rich in chlorophyll, packed with antioxidants, and known to benefit all parts of the body, especially our digestive system.

Blue + Purple + Dark Red: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, red grapes, beets, red cabbage, plums, eggplant, and elderberries contain another phytonutrient called anthocyanins and are extremely healthy for our brain. They are known to improve brain function and lower the risk for developing neurological disorders such as dementia.

White: Cauliflower, onions, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, white potatoes, and parsnips contain a phytonutrient called anthoxanthin that is anti-inflammatory and helps to fight colon and other types of cancers.

Often, it can be a lack of inspiration that prevents intake of enough and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few helpful tips for increasing your fruit and veggie intake:

Determine your needs. It is recommended that those consuming a 2,000-calorie diet should consume a minimum of 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day, but don’t be stingy, more is always better.

Set goals. If your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables, try starting by adding one extra serving each day- once you have formed the habit, add another serving and keep going from there. Having at least one fruit and one vegetable with every meal can benefit your health in a plethora of ways.

Get sneaky. Try adding finely grated carrots or zucchini to pasta sauce, meat loaf, chili, casseroles, or baked goods. Add a handful of spinach to smoothies and cauliflower to mashed potatoes. Foods like soups and macaroni and cheese are perfect dishes to add pureed vegetables, such as butternut squash, carrots, and pumpkin.

Try something different. Let’s face it, apples, bananas, and grapes can get tiring after a while. Try something new like kiwi, mango, pineapple, or some of the more exotic fruits you can find in many grocery stores.

Remember, getting your recommended intake of fruits and veggies doesn’t have to be bland or boring! With a little bit of drive and creativity, you can optimize your health through enjoying delicious and colorful recipes- try tasting the rainbow today!

If you have any questions or if there are any nutrition-related topics that you would like me to discuss, please email me at