STONE: Food choices should be as colorful as you are

What you put into life is what you’ll get out of it. This certainly pertains to the foods you choose to eat and the lifestyles you choose to live by. The key word here is “you.” It is you, and no one else, who consciously decides on what to eat and what to put into your body.

Whether it’s an apple or a crème-filled Twinkie, your decisions have a direct impact on overall health and well-being. It’s not rocket science to understand that healthy foods yield healthy results, while unhealthy foods…well, you get the picture. A great way to incorporate healthier foods into your diet is to think colorful.

Adding color to your diet doesn’t mean reaching for the nearest bag of Skittles and tasting the rainbow, but instead grabbing power packed whole foods, particularly more fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure your grocery shopping starts in the produce aisle and fill that basket up with seasonal foods of various red, orange, yellow, green, and purple hues. It’s said we first eat with our eyes, so the burst of color alone might just kick start a desire to try new recipes. Using the fruits and vegetables, you had otherwise passed on your way to the Oreo cookies from prior grocery trips, can help mix things up in the kitchen, eliminate harmful cravings, and motivate yourself to finally incorporate consistent, healthy eating that will last a lifetime.

An array of colorful foods lends more than just reawaking taste buds and palates, but also adds beneficial vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants to an otherwise depleted and non-nourishing diet commonly found in many (if not most) American diets. Red foods, such as tomatoes and watermelon, contain cancer fighting lycopene. Strawberries are another popular choice which not only yield a boost of vitamin C, but are loaded with folic acid which decreases the risk of certain birth defects. My favorite is a thick sliced tomato, nestled against mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Cruising on to yellow and orange foods, the possibilities seem almost endless. From fruits such as bananas, peaches, mangoes, pineapples, cantaloupes, and several citrus varieties to vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, peppers, and corn; your meal planning can go into overdrive. The advantages of yellow and orange foods include a boost of beta carotene, potassium, and phytochemicals (such as zeaxanthin and lutein) which help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Spice things up by adding mangoes, peaches, or pineapples to your trusted pico de gallo recipe or make some baked sweet potato chips with a dusting of sea salt and cayenne pepper for a guilt-free snack.

Although one of the most commonly associated colors of vegetables, there’s nothing boring about green. Leafy varieties such as spinach, kale, arugula, and parsley aren’t limited to just the salad bowl. Tossing a handful into your smoothie will enhance your blended concoction with added calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, and dill are another way to incorporate both flavor and antioxidants into your meals.

If you’re at risk for diabetes, cancer, and/or cardiovascular disease, purple is your color. The likes of blackberries, blueberries, plums, and grapes contain anthocyanins which some studies suggest inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells and also appears to improve blood sugar metabolism and cholesterol levels. Try mixing berries in salads or making a sauce out of them to serve atop some delicious whole-grain banana pancakes.

The best way to achieve your nutritional and dietary needs is by simply eating healthy, nourishing foods. No supplement, shake, or wearable vitamin patch can replace the benefits whole foods have to offer. Make it a point to add a variety of color in your meal planning and explore new fruits and vegetables to gain the most out of what you are putting into your body.