Feast on the Vibrant Colors of Nature’s Fruits and Vegetables

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s photo library

 

Have you taken the opportunity to admire the blooming outdoor plants at this time of the year? The vibrant red, deep purple and vivid yellow hues of flowers decorating homeowners’ landscapes attract our attention.

The same pigments, or natural colorants, in flowers are responsible for many of the health benefits of colorful fruits and vegetables. They beautify our plates, but perhaps more importantly, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can keep us healthier in the long run.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in “phytochemicals” (plant chemicals) that have been shown to help fight against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. For example, tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon get their rosy color from a pigment known as “lycopene.” This antioxidant pigment helps protect against prostate and other types of cancer.

“Anthocyanins” provide color to many purple, blue or red fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, red and purple grapes, raspberries, cranberries, red onions, strawberries, red cabbage and red apples. These pigments also contain protective antioxidant pigments that help protect cells from damage. Eating more foods containing anthocyanins may help prevent hardening of blood vessels and certain types of cancer.

If you’re looking for a nutritious, colorful addition to your summer menus, consider red cabbage. Red cabbage is a good source of vitamin C. A half cup of raw cabbage contains only15 calories.

Cabbage also has sulfur-containing compounds known as “isothiocyanates.” They’re responsible for the aroma of cooked cabbage and some of the health benefits. In a study of more than 18,000 Chinese males ranging in age from 45 to 64, eating more cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk of getting lung cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are linked with reducing the risk of prostate cancer and stomach cancer, too.

At the store, look for solid, compact cabbages with no signs of wilting, unusual colors or aromas. Use cabbage as soon as possible after purchase in fresh or cooked form. Cabbage loses flavor the longer it’s stored.

Here’s a colorful, flavorful recipe to brighten everyone’s plate at your next barbecue.


Crimson Slaw

1/2 head (1pound, 8 ounces) red cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 onion (white or yellow), thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. canola or sunflower oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Toss cabbage and onions together in a large mixing bowl. Mix oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl to make a dressing. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss with cranberries. Marinate in the refrigerator for one hour.

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