Meet "The Color Diet"
By Meryl Rothstein
Consulting a nutrition label or weighing pasta portions doesn't bode well when you want a great meal. Which is why, if you talk to enough nutritionists--as I do for this job--you can start to think that eating healthfully ruins all the fun. But there's one piece of advice I swear by, something that makes me feel like I'm not giving up deliciousness in the name of wellness: Get a lot of color on your plate.
In fact, the very chemicals that give plants their hue also do things like fight cancer. "Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables gives you the best protection against disease," says Navindra Seeram, director of the Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island. Every color does something different: The antho-cyanin in purple eggplants offers complementary benefits to the beta- carotene in orange carrots. Eat produce from around the color wheel, and you'll get nutrients that are thought to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more. It's that simple.
That's why I load up my frittatas with red and green peppers, purple potatoes, and a mess of herbs. It's why I work the salad bar in the Condé Nast cafeteria like Bob Ross preparing a palette, tossing in green beans with my beets and roasted sweet potatoes. This color blocking also ensures that I eat more produce--the plate piles up--and basically guarantees a good-looking meal (the quickest way to make me want a salad, short of adding cheese). For ideas on brightening up your plate, plus a beautiful example, see below.
PAINT YOUR PLATE
Orange and Yellow: The body converts the beta-carotene in carrots, mango, sweet potatoes, and other similarly shaded foods into vitamin A, which promotes good vision.
Purple and Blue: Anthocyanins, antioxidants that may inhibit tumor growth, boost cognitive function, and fight heart disease, are found in eggplants, radishes, and berries.
Red: Get lycopene, linked to lowered risk for prostate, lung, and stomach cancers, from tomato, pink grapefruit, and watermelon.
Green: Zucchini, along with leafy greens and basil, is a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which may prevent eye disease and stroke.
In Sandwiches: Making the usual turkey sandwich? Lettuce and tomato get you lutein and lycopene. Add avocado for moisture (bonus: It helps the body absorb lycopene) and radish for crunch (and vitamin C).
And Salads: Our green salads should never just be green. Make visual variety a priority.
On the Side: Take a cue from Southern meat 'n' threes: Eat more veggie sides. This month, try corn, grilled peaches, and kale salad for maximum benefit.