August 11, 2014
Summer and fall are a wonderful time to find a variety of easy-to-prepare and healthy foods. During these seasons, an array of colorful, healthy foods is readily available—particularly fresh fruits and vegetables. These colorful foods help maintain our health by providing vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They are often low in calories and are rich sources of nutrients and fiber. Scientists and many food articles refer to these as “superfoods,” meaning those foods that are nutrient-rich, low in calories, and considered to be beneficial for health and well-being. Others refer to these foods as “multitasking foods” because they are easy to incorporate into meals with their high nutrients and low calories (nutrient dense).
Packed with phytonutrients and flavanoids, berries are a favorite with adults and children. Commonly eaten berries include blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and elderberries. These berries are good sources of quercetin, ellagic acid, anthocyanin, manganese, chlorogenic acid and pterostillbene. The nutrients found in berries have been shown to help maintain brain, heart and digestive health.
Squashes are packed with important nutrients and are great as side dishes, in soups and stews, and even as low-calorie deserts. Some favorites include butternut, acorn, crookneck, summer, straight neck, zucchini, banana, scallop, cushaw and pumpkin squash (to name a few). These contain carotenoids, antioxidants, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin K and fiber. The nutrients found in squash help with maintaining immune, digestive and eye functions.
3. Dark Greens
Dark greens like spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, kale and Brussels sprouts are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, carotenoids (lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin) and minerals like potassium and calcium. These foods contain many nutrients that support the health of tissues, including the skin, eye and bones.
There are a variety of tomatoes that can be easily prepared and that are a rich source of vitamin C, carotenoids and folate. Tomatoes are also low-fat and have a high water content that makes them somewhat filling. They support skin, heart, immune, bone, eye and urogenital health.
Much like tomatoes, peppers (which are also considered a fruit) are a rich source of vitamin C, lycopene and other carotenoids as well as fiber. Peppers come in a variety of colors, which indicates they contain phytochemicals that confer health benefits.
The similarities in all of these superfoods are that they are packed with nutrients yet are low in fat or calories. Their bright colors are appealing, but the key is to consume a diet that has a lot of variety. Be bold, try new ways of food preparation, and enjoy the array of foods available.
posted by Steve Wood, Ph.D.
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