What Colors Are on Your Plate?

Pick a color, any color. If you want to improve your health one serving at a time, choose vegetables and fruits of varying colors. Vibrant-colored fruits and veggies give you a range of phytonutrients, each with its own health-promoting strengths. Colorful plant foods happen to be incredible sources of soluble and insoluble fiber — both of which are essential for hormone balance and impossible to get from animal products.

Everyone knows that green veggies are great for you, but you don't always have to think green — explore your options. The UCLA Center for Human Nutrition has developed a system for grouping fruits and vegetables by color for easier selection. I've adapted this system into four categories, and I recommend aiming for one fruit or vegetable from each color group (including the greens!) every day.

Orange: Carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and mangoes are high in beta-carotene, which may help cells communicate with one another a bit more frequently, therefore increasing the body's ability to avoid cancer. Beta-carotene also plays an important role in the production of progesterone, which contributes to a smooth pregnancy.

Yellow: Research suggests that the vitamin C in citrus foods can be a stress-buster. A German study tested this theory by subjecting people to a high-stress situation (they had to do math problem in front of a bunch of other people — I'd say that's stressful!). Half of those studied were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C and half were not. The people who did not get the vitamin C had elevated levels of cortisol and high blood pressure — surefire signs of stress. Those who'd taken vitamin C felt less stressed. (However, why supplement? Get the real thing and eat your vitamin C!) Foods in the Yellow group include oranges, tangerines (I know that sounds odd, but nutritionally oranges and tangerines are "yellow"), yellow grapefruit, lemons, peaches, and nectarines.

Purple: Berries are powerhouse foods that can help you lose weight and keep your blood sugar low, so definitely include them in your diet. Look out for other purple fruits and vegetables too, including plums, prunes, grapes, and eggplant, which all boast numerous vitamins and minerals.

Red: Red fruits and veggies contain the phytochemical lycopene, a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant. Studies showed that men with high blood levels of lycopene had the lowest risk of developing prostate cancer. Tomatoes are one of the richest sources of lycopene. Plus, one cup of tomatoes gives you almost 60 percent of your daily value of vitamin C and almost 8 percent of your daily fiber needs. You can get the health benefits from organic pasta sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup — just make sure there's no high-fructose corn syrup in the products you buy!

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