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Somewhere Over the Rainbow

June 20, 2012

Ever wonder what it means to “eat the rainbow”? Here’s a hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with Judy Garland or The Wizard of Oz.

Walk into the produce section of any grocery store and admire the vibrant colors of peppers, leafy greens, citrus, tomatoes, eggplant and berries. Vegetables and fruits contain a wealth of natural substances called phytonutrients, which give them their bright colors, unique tastes and sometimes powerful smells, and help protect them from bacteria while they are growing.

When we eat fresh fruits and vegetables, we ingest these potent substances and benefit from their natural disease-fighting properties. While phytonutrients don’t necessarily prevent diseases, Douglas Margel points out in his book “The Nutrient-Dense Eating Plan” that they “optimize health,” improving our resistance to toxins, stressors, free radical formation and other factors that may lead to ill health and disease.

That’s why it’s smart to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, to benefit from the many different categories of phytonutrients. Carotenoids, for example – found in orange-, yellow- and red-colored foods such as carrots, squash, tomatoes and pink grapefruit – help protect specific tissues, including those in the breast, colon and eyes. Flavonoids – found in blue foods such as berries and in green tea – have powerful anti-cancer and anti-bacterial qualities. Limonoids, which occur in the peels and membranes of citrus fruits, seem to break down mucus in the lungs. When you “eat the rainbow,” you get the benefits of the slightly different protective functions of all these classes of phytochemicals, helping to ensure your overall health and well-being. Grab some colorful food this summer and eat up!

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