When planning meals, an easy way to choose vegetables and fruit to help build a nourishing meal, is to ‘Eat the Rainbow’. It can be overwhelming trying to make a meal that is delicious and has the nutrients you need to stay strong. Nature meets us part way by color coding fruit and vegetables. The different colors give us an idea of the phytonutrients a vegetable or fruit has more of. While phytonutrients are not essential to survival, they do help us fight disease and improve our overall wellness like in the case of antioxidants (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501).
How to select fruits and vegetables to nourish your body and mind.
If you are not sure which vegetables to choose use the follow tips (color, variety, and in-season) to keep your meals balanced and interesting:
Choose vegetables and fruit that vary in color. Include reds, yellow, purples, greens, dark greens, whites and so on. Differently colored veggies and fruit are richer in certain minerals and nutrients than others. For example, dark veggies like beets and dark leafy greens like spinach or kale are higher in antioxidants which helps our bodies fight mutated cells that can damage our bodies significantly. Vegetables and fruit that are yellow or orange help promote intracellular communication. This isn’t to say that we don’t get tons of other benefits from any of the vegetables and fruit. Planning your meals by a range of colors is an easy way to ensure we get more of what we need over time.
Mix it up by choosing different vegetables and fruit from week to week or month to month. No need to make it complicated, just choose one or two new items a week or month. Variety gives your body a larger selection of phytonutrients, nutrients and minerals and creates a more robust system for fighting disease and staying strong. Mixing things up keeps our meals interesting and I find that stepping out of my routine and learning about new foods and how to cook different foods helps my brain stay strong. Our brains, like our bodies, are made to be used. Exercising the brain by learning and doing new things goes a long way to help brain plasticity and new brain growth (https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/train-your-brain). So even though this may seem like a really minor change, every little bit adds up.
Buy vegetables and fruit in-season as much as possible. Buying in-season has two main benefits: it’s an easy way to mix things up and get variety and in-season produce tends to be locally grown, which can mean it is fresher (especially if you shop at a local farmer’s market), supports your local economy, and can be better for the environment since it hasn’t had to travel as far.