63° F

Taste the Rainbow: Nutritionists Urge Eating a Spectrum of Colors

Published On: Nov 26 2013 05:51:46 PM AKST   Updated On: Nov 11 2013 11:06:00 AM AKST

(KTUU-TV, 11-26-13)


Carrots for the eyes, bananas for that potassium punch, an apple a day keeps the doctor away -- Mom has already told us that stuff, but scientists have started breaking it down according to the color of your food.

“We know that vivid hues produce contain some powerful disease-fighting chemicals called phytonutrients,” said Dr. Ellen Chirichella, an oncologist with Anchorage-based Katmai Oncology. “Phytonutrients is a general term that we give these chemicals that help in cell repair and protect against certain diseases, including cancer.”

Chirichella explains that one easy way to tell what’s what in food is by its color.

“Eating a variety of colorful foods is going to give you the most protection,” Dr. Chirichella said.

Nutritionists say foods like tomatoes, strawberries and peppers (red produce) are loaded with nutrients that can help cut the risk of heart disease, cancer and strengthen your immune system.

“Red is typically a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and lycopenes,” said Sarah Wilson, an oncology dietitian with Providence Cancer Center. “They are also thought to be a really good source in anti-oxidants.”

Orange and yellow foods can protect your skin, eyes and lungs, while Wilson says green is also a great source of vitamin A and fiber.

Nutritionists say purple, dark red and blue foods are loaded with antioxidants to boost brain power and also protect the heart.

Also, white foods, like garlic and onions, are also good for the heart, according to nutritionists and can help prevent certain types of cancers.

“All the colors are important, so when we say to eat the rainbow it’s important to not forget the whites, browns, tans and blacks,” Dr. Chirichella said. “A lack of color doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of nutrients.”

Don’t forget about your frozen foods. Experts say those pack as many nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables. During this time of year in Alaska, fresh produce can be hard to come by.

“We know that the time that frozen foods are picked and processed is actually pretty short,” Wilson said.

With five recommended servings of fruits and vegetables a day, statistically Alaskans aren’t doing so well, according to Wilson.

“Only about 24 percent of Alaskans reach that goal,” Wilson said.