Eating Well With Kim: Eat a Variety of Colors

By: Kim Beavers
By: Kim Beavers

Eat a rainbow of colors!

I love telling people that especially kids!

What an easy nutrition message. But as with everything easy is not always the best way to describe the whole picture. In this case colorful vegetables and fruits are celebrated for their high nutrient content (vitamins, minerals, and other healthy plant chemicals.)

However focusing so much on color leaves out the less colorful fruits and vegetables, which is a shame because they too are great additions to any diet. The real message is to eat a variety of colors.

Sadly nutrient rich greens are under consumed so I don't fault the message really, I just like to clarify things from time to time and thought this was as good a time as any to bring out some of the virtues of the more plain colored vegetables.

Let's begin with potatoes, not know for their health value but seriously what is not to love? Potatoes are high in vitamin C, potassium (having more potassium than a banana), plus they are good sources of fiber and other antioxidants.

Potatoes are a great starchy vegetable to have in place of rice, pasta, or bread. I mean they are vegetables after all. Yes they are higher in calories than the standard non-starchy vegetable but they do, have a high satiety factor. Basically that means they keep you full and satisfied longer than other foods, as you would expect a higher calorie food to do, right?

So the bottom line is to enjoy potatoes for their nutrient value and satiety factor---just limit your portion if you are concerned with calories or carbohydrate servings.

Just to mention a few more tubers—parsnips and turnips are not noted for their overwhelming nutritional presence but upon further inspection we learn that perhaps we should not judge so harshly. Turnips have plenty of vitamin C and K. Vitamin K is important in blood clotting. Turnips are also a great source of fiber with 5 grams per 1 cup cooked turnip. Turnips are lower in calorie also than the potato making them a more “diet” friendly tuber. Parsnips also rank high in vitamin C as well as folic acid and potassium

  • Turnips are available year round and can be eaten raw, cooked or baked.

  • Try turnips or parsnips in stew, with pot roast, or roasted with carrots---delicious.

Check out this website for some great information on parsnips and ways to cook them.

Next up onions and garlic

I could write for hours on the virtues of onions and garlic—suffice it to say there are many plant chemicals (phytochemicals) in both these lovely aromatic vegetables and you should use them whenever possible. One word of advice with garlic and cooking----it can burn and therefore should be added to the pan after the onions (if using both) and then just sauté ever so briefly before adding in the remaining ingredients. When garlic burns it becomes bitter and that is no fun at all.

Here is a great link for an additional onion recipe and some great nutrition information as well. This recipe uses red onions but I bet it would be delicious with Vidalia's!

Mushrooms come to mind next:

Mushrooms are typically used as side items or burger toppers. However, they pack a nutritional punch and should definitely be served more often in their own right. Mushrooms are high in potassium, selenium, copper, sometimes vitamin D, B vitamins all that and low in calories as well!

I want to touch on vitamin D a bit more.

Recently on Dr. Oz an experts cited mushrooms as a good source of vitamin D. That is true SOMETIMES. Not all mushrooms are grown in such a way that enhances their level of vitamin D. The ones that are grown this way will have “100% Vitamin D” noted specifically on the label. So yes they can be a great source of vitamin D—just be sure to look for that on the label.

Last but not least is cauliflower one of the most nutritious white foods that come to mind.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable in the same family with broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C, K and folic acid. Not to mention the many phytochemicals and cancer fighting properties assigned to this class of vegetables. But as always it is more important to know how to cook this vegetable and get it in your diet than knowing the nutrients. My favorite way to eat cauliflower is roasted.

We have a great recipe at universityhealth.org/ewwk for roasted cauliflower. If you prefer of course you can also eat it raw, regardless of your preference add some to your diet soon.

Until next time: Eat well, live well.


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