Sunday, June 26 2011 16:42

Colors Are For Eating— As Well As Wearing

By  Mark Rifkin

During Pride, we see dazzling displays of color from all parts of the rainbow. From pink and rose to lavender and violet and all shades in between, colors are regarded as a healthy expression of gay pride.

Well, there’s another healthy use for colors: eating!

Fruits and vegetables, colored in every shade of the rainbow, are a treasure trove of healthy plant compounds known as phytochemicals (“phyto” = “plant”). That treasure becomes richer with deeper, darker shades. In fact, the colors we see are the actual phytochemicals, so the deeper darker foods will have more. So when you have a choice between different grapes, go for the red, or, even better, the black/purple.

Scientists estimate there are 10,000 or more phytochemicals. Of those, only a few hundred have been identified, and only a couple dozen have been isolated and marketed in supplements. Although we tend to look at nutrients in isolation, they probably work together in ways we’ve only begun to discover. That’s why isolated phytochemical supplements are not recommended—nature didn’t make them that way and they may not have the desired effect in isolation. They may even be dangerous. The best way is the simple way—food.

Phytochemicals can be grouped by the color of the fruit or vegetable, as follows:

Now that summer is here and farmers markets are open, go on a visual and taste adventure. Take your kids and let them select the colors. Try a new fruit or vegetable every two weeks. Ask the farmer for some flavor or prep ideas. Or join a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm, which sells farm shares in advance. Each week during the harvest, you’ll get an armload of freshly harvested produce. You can even go out to the farm and work the soil yourself. Or visit a pick-your-own farm, where everyone can pick the berries. Plenty of resources are available online.

Then what to do with them? Grill your veggies with the burgers. Make that summer salad a meal with pre-cooked protein and starch additions. Make a colorful fruit salad with a lime-honey dressing. Make a stir fry with an Asian peanut sauce. Roast redskin potatoes, quartered onions, tomatoes and garlic with Italian herbs. Throw at least two cups of veggies on that frozen pizza. Color your morning eggs with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and spinach. Make a creamy cold soup with green peas, soy yogurt and tarragon. There’s a whole rainbow of choices and delicious flavors.

Take pride in your colors!

Mark Rifkin

Mark Rifkin

Mark Rifkin is a Registered Dietitian with Total Health Care, Inc. a health care provider that offers HIV programs, Substance Abuse services, as well as Adult Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN, Nutrition, and more. Visit or call 410-383-8300.staff


Joomla SEO by AceSEF