Colorful foods that fight disease— and aging

You’ve probably noticed that a little bit of color— in your closet and on your plate— is a great way to make things more attractive and inviting. It’s true; colorful foods are enticing to both grown ups and kids. And colorful fruits and vegetables also help protect you from chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes and obesity.

In my new cookbook, “Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family,” my goal is to show you how to improve your diet by adding more color to meals and snacks, all in a fun, stress-free way. And because it's not a diet, but a sustainable healthy eating change, you're much more likely to stick with it.

“Eating in Color” takes you through the entire color spectrum, providing recipes and ideas for adding more reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigos and violets, and blacks and tans to your meals. Here's a taste of what each color can specifically do to boost a woman’s health.

Plus, these foods may just make you look a bit more beautiful— and that’s just one more reason to eat in color!

Watermelon contains high levels of lycopene, a carotenoid that gives watermelon its deep pink color. Several studies have found that people with higher amounts of lycopene in their blood have a lower risk of some types of cancer. The evidence is strongest for cancer of the lung, stomach, and prostate, but also shows promise for cancer of the cervix and breast. Lycopene content is highest in fully ripe melons. Plus, watermelon is extremely hydrating, at 92 percent water, giving your skin a necessary dose of youthful hydration.

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Feta Salad with Thyme
Serves 4

1 cup seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
3 cups watermelon, seeded and cubed
1⁄2 cup Feta cheese, cubed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

In a medium serving bowl, gently toss the cucumber, watermelon, feta, thyme, vinegar, salt, and pepper together. Garnish with basil leaves, if using, and serve.

Mangos are an excellent source of vitamin C and owe their beautiful color to high levels of beta-carotene. They also contain phenolic compounds, which provide the structure for antioxidants and help boost the body’s immune system. They’re also a good source of fiber. Additionally, a recent study found that just three servings a day of beta-carotene-rich fruits and veggies can measurably improve your skin’s appearance by removing redness and promoting a healthy glow.

Coco-Mango Smoothie
Serves 2

Fruit of 1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1⁄2 cup coconut butter, such as Nutiva brand Coconut Manna
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup water
1 cup ice, plus more for serving

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses over additional ice, if desired, and serve.

Lemons contain vitamin C and health-boosting bioflavanoids, which help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Lemon peel also acts as a natural antimicrobial. With 4mg of iron per serving, this salad is a good source of this essential mineral. Plus, adding vitamin C-rich lemons makes it easier for your body to absorb the plant-based iron. The garbanzo beans make this a protein (15g) and fiber-rich (6g) dish.

Grilled Halloumi and Lemon Salad
Serves 6

1 clove garlic
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the grill
2 organic lemons, 1 juiced (2 tablespoons) and the other sliced thinly into wheels
1 (8.8-ounce) package halloumi, sliced horizontally into 6 large slices
1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, rinsed, drained, and sliced into 2-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (5-ounce) container washed baby spinach

1. Preheat a grill or a grill pan to medium-high.
2. Mince the garlic with the salt and rosemary. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the oil and the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
3. Brush both sides of the halloumi slices with some of the rosemary-lemon dressing. Set the remainder aside.
4. When ready to grill, oil the grill or pan. Add the cheese and the lemon slices and grill for 5 minutes per side, until grill marks form and the cheese is softened.
5. In a large bowl, gently toss the hearts of palm and garbanzo beans with the spinach. Arrange the salad on a platter. Drizzle the salad with the remaining rosemary-lemon dressing and serve.

Mustard greens are loaded with beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that help to protect healthy eye cells and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. And mustard greens contain 9 times the Adequate Intake (AI) of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. Some studies show that vitamin K also helps keep bones strong in the elderly. And at only 36 calories, adding these peppery greens to your diet is a wise way to slim down.

Mustard Green Frittata
Serves 6

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch mustard greens, chopped
10 large eggs
1⁄2 cup 2 percent milk
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 cup (about 11⁄4 ounces) grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Heat 3 teaspoons of the oil in an ovenproof 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the mustard greens and cook for 10 minutes, until wilted.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, red pepper, and cheese.
4. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan with the mustard greens. Heat briefly, then add the egg mixture. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the edges are set.
5. Transfer the sauté pan to the oven and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, until the top looks dry and the egg mixture is completely set. Cut into 6 wedges and serve.

Thanks to their polyphenol content, blueberries have proven to be quite promising for helping to reverse age-related declines in cognitive and motor function. And one type of polyphenol called anthocyanin may help women cut their risk of having a heart attack by a third. A study done by the Harvard school of Public Health and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom found that women (ages 25-42) who ate three or more cups of blueberries and strawberries each week were 32 percent less likely to have a heart attack than women who only ate the berries once a month or less. This fun recipe has just 20 calories per 1/4 cup.

Blueberry Salsa
Serves 10

1 pint fresh blueberries
1⁄4 medium red onion, diced
1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1⁄4 teaspoon salt

Chop 1 cup of the blueberries. In a medium bowl, gently combine the chopped blueberries and the remaining whole blueberries with the onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño, and salt. The salsa will keep for 1 day in the refrigerator.

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a New York Times bestselling author and nationally recognized health expert. Frances is the author of “Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide” and co-author of the bestselling “The CarbLovers Diet” and “The CarbLovers Diet Cookbook”. Her latest cookbook, “Eating In Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family,” was recently published. Frances earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York.

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