This month March, is National Nutrition Month. This year's theme is "Enjoy the taste of eating right." While of course, it is important to eat foods that are nutritious, taste is a key reason why people choose to eat what they do. Pairing good nutrition with great taste creates a win-win situation. National Nutrition Month, created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is a nutrition education campaign which focuses on the importance of making good food choices.
One way to "enjoy the taste of eating right" is to include a colorful diet. In particular, when choosing fruits and vegetables, I always suggest to clients that they choose a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene. The dark blue color of blueberries contains polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene.
Below (in alphabetical order) are several nutrition powerhouses, of varying colors and nutrients that I love to include in my diet and recommend to clients.
1. Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which may contribute to heart health. They are also high in vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant. Not only is this green fruit (yes, it is a fruit) good for the heart, it tastes great. Sprinkle a half of avocado with some lemon and olive oil and add it to your favorite salad.
2. Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer. Beets add color and taste to a green salad.
3. Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and have been shown to contribute to health. These tasty blue gems are full of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and the mineral manganese. Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to a reduction of chronic diseases. Blueberries contain only 80 calories per cup and make a tasty topping to yogurt or cereal, and also taste great plain as a snack.
4. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. Broccoli is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It also contains sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that may fight cancer and other chronic diseases. Sauteed broccoli makes a great side dish paired with grilled salmon or chicken.
5. Cantaloupe is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It also contains potassium, a mineral which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is a great choice if you are watching your weight -- a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories. Cantaloupe mixed with other melons such as watermelon and honeydew makes for a tasty fruit salad after dinner.
6. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, and also part of the Brassica family. It may be white in color but don't let that fool you. It is a super nutritious veggie. One cup contains under 30 calories!, and is super high in vitamin C and fiber. It also contains vitamin K and folate. Roasted cauliflower tastes delicious.
7. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers. Spinach makes a great veggie side dish and tastes great sautéed in olive oil and garlic.