March is National Nutrition Month, so the American Dietetic Association has chosen the theme of "Eat Right with Color" to help people choose more nutritious foods.
An easy way to pile more color onto your plate is by incorporating brightly colored vegetables.
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Not only will a colorful meal be more appealing to the eye, but it will also increase nutrients essential to good health while providing minimal additional calories and fat.
Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, which is beneficial to the body in many ways.
Dietary fiber provides bulk to the diet, leaving the feeling of fullness, while providing few calories or fat.
Dietary fiber plays a role in digestive health and might help protect our bodies from certain types of cancer and heart disease.
Why the emphasis on bright colors? Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are excellent sources or phytonutrients (compounds that are found in plants that have many health-promoting benefits including the potential to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease).
Bright red vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, and red peppers provide nutrients that might help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, especially of the prostate.
Adding white vegetables such as cauliflower, mushrooms, and onions provides nutrients, which might help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
Orange and yellow vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots and yellow peppers provide nutrients that play a role in maintenance of healthy eyesight, and might help reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and might improve immune function.
Green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and brussels sprouts also provide nutrients, which play a role in keeping your eyes healthy.
Certain green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are a good source of folate, which has been shown to help reduce the risk of birth defects.
Blue and purple vegetables such as eggplant provide powerful antioxidants, which help protect various cells in our bodies from damage and might help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers and heart disease.
By choosing the correct cooking process, we can help preserve these valuable nutrients.
To preserve dietary fiber, avoid overcooking and limit to peeling your vegetables.
Steam vegetables in a small amount of water to help preserve other nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Have you ever noticed when you boil vegetables, the water often turns colors? Prolonged exposure to water and heat breaks down key nutrients, which will be present in the water that most people drain off, before serving.
So what counts as a serving? One serving of vegetables is equal to 1 cup if it is raw and 1/2 cup if it is cooked.
So how many servings of vegetables do we need? People require different amounts depending on their age and activity level.