Ah, summer, the season of smells. Food smells wafting through…
“Eat the Rainbow.” It’s the latest advice in health food. It also sounds suspiciously close to the tagline for a Skittles commercial, but if you are thinking that a bag of candy might meet the criteria, prepare to be disillusioned. The colors health experts are referring to are not the colors that come from artificial food coloring, but the colors that come from nutrients. With summer on the horizon, many of us are probably thinking about yellow foods: melons, pineapples, yellow squash, grapefruit, sweet corn, and sweet yellow peaches are all about to be available to the public in a “get ’em while you can” frenzy. Here’s the food spectrum salute to the color yellow.
Why You Should Eat Yellow Food
Yellow food owes its vibrant color to carotenoids. The three most common, which are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin are converted from food into vitamin A inside the body. We need it for good vision in low light, a strong immune system, normal development, and healthy urinary and digestive tracts. In addition, recent evidence suggests that these carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, may actually help to lower the risk of heart disease, and some forms of cancer, lung cancer, most specifically.
Food, Not Supplements
If you’re thinking of just loading up on beta-carotene supplements and skipping the fruits and veggies, experts advise against it. Studies show that beta-carotene supplements can increase the likelihood of lung cancer in smokers, so it’s probably better to go for the plant form. Hope you like carrots, orange and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, mangoes, passion fruit, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and galia melons; they’re are all excellent sources of beta-carotene.
Another of the three main carotenoids, beta-cryptoxanthin is found in papaya, peaches, citrus fruits, peppers, nectarines, mangoes, and pumpkin. Like their carotenoid cousin, they can also reduce lung cancer risk and keep the respiratory tract in good working condition. Citrus fruits and juices are rich in photochemical hesperidin, known to protect against heart disease, and tangeritin, which may help to prevent head and neck cancers. The zest, or peel, of citrus fruits, is a source of limonene. Limonene is a phytochemical that ensures healthy lungs and may also reduce cancer risk. And, while you’re preparing your yellow fruits and veggies, don’t be afraid to pour on a little olive oil or to serve a little side of hummus. Fat helps the body with the absorption of beta-carotene and cooking food makes it easier for the body to use and break down phytochemicals.
Eating More Yellow Food
If you’re wondering how you can start upping your carotenoid level, here’s a few suggestions
- Make a fruit salad with pineapples, mangoes, and galia melons
- Trade in honeydew for melons like cantaloupe or galia
- Use sweet potatoes instead of baked or mashed
- Top cereals and oatmeal with dried apricot
- Add yellow peppers to salads
- Add some sweet corn to your tuna sandwiches
- Trade in your chowder for some carrot and butternut squash soup
What yellow foods are you eating? Let us know how the rainbow tastes. We love to hear from you.