By Emily Schmitt, RD, LDN, Campus Recreation Services
I love looking forward to the Farmers Market at Maryland each week, knowing there will be tables of fruits and vegetables waiting for me. I’m always fascinated by the true rainbow of colors among the endless piles of produce from McCleaf’s Orchard and Valencia’s Produce.
MyPlate recommends that we make half of our plate fruits and vegetables. Why? Because eating fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet can reduce risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers.
Each color of fruit or vegetable – whether it be red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple, or white – has its own specific nutritional benefits.
Each color of fruit or vegetable contains phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, which are naturally existing substances found in plants that aid in disease prevention and health maintenance.
To ensure that you get the most out of your local produce, aim for variety – a rainbow on your plate. To get you started, I’ve highlighted 3 of my favorite brightly colored, in-season fruits and vegetables below.
Tomatoes are the most common source of lycopene, an antioxidantthat may help reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and some cancers, including prostate. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes its red color, can be found in other red fruits and vegetables, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Additionally, tomatoes are high in vitamins A and C and a good source of potassium.
What to Look for: Bright shiny skins with firm flesh
How to Store: Away from direct sunlight and at room temperature
Recipe To Try: Cooking Light’s Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa, Corn, and Green Chiles
Like other blue/purple fruits and vegetables, blueberries contain natural pigments called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants, which may help fight aging, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Blueberries may also promote brain health, improving learning and keeping our mind sharp. Other sources of anthocyanins include blackberries, plums, and purple grapes. Additionally, blueberries are a good source of vitamin C and dietary fiber.
What to Look for: Firm, plump, and dry with dusty blue color and uniform size
How to Store: Refrigerate
Recipe: Cooking Light’s Chicken-Fruit Salad
Kale and its fellow dark leafy greens contain two pigments – lutein and zeaxanthin – which promote eye health. Other sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include broccoli, peas, and kiwi. Additionally, Kale – along with spinach, Swiss chard, collards, and other dark leafy greens — is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K and is a good source of calcium and potassium.
What to Look for: Dark colored bunches with small to medium leaves, avoiding brown or yellow leaves
How to Store: Refrigerate in bag in coldest part of refrigerator
Recipe: Cooking Light’s Two-Bean Soup with Kale
- If a food is marketed as “an excellent source” or is “high in” a nutrient, that means it contains 20% or more of the recommended Daily Value.
- If a food is “a good source” of a nutrient, it contains 10-19% of the Daily Value.
- For more on nutrient content claims, click here.
Share with us! What in-season fruits and veggies have you tried recently?