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Want to eat better? Add more color to your diet

/ Source: Prevention

The secret to youthful skin, healthy bones, sharp memory, and disease prevention can be found in your fridge. The more colorful your diet, the more antioxidants you get. These compounds reduce overall cellular damage and prevent the hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart disease, stroke, even memory loss. "Every hue — green, yellow, orange, red, purple, and even white — signifies a different class of nutrients, each of which offers a unique benefit," explains USDA research chemist Ronald Prior, PhD, who was among the first researchers to measure the antioxidants in food that protect us as we age. For instance:

1. Yellow/Orange

Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mango, corn, and melon all contain a variety of carotenoids, which reduce the risk of developing cancer.

2. Green

Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are high in lutein, which keeps your vision sharp and clear.

3. Blue/Purple

Blueberries and blackberries are chock-full of anthocyanins, which prevent tumors from forming and suppress their growth.

4. Red

Tomatoes and watermelon are loaded with lycopene, which may protect against cancer and heart disease.

5. White

Cauliflower offers the same cancer-fighting benefits as broccoli, its cruciferous cousin, and potatoes are a good source of vitamin C. There's also some evidence that the sulfur compounds in garlic and onions may ward off stomach and colon cancers. Other white foods, like poached chicken, seafood, reduced-fat cheeses, eggs, and tofu, provide all-important protein.

For a true age-defying eating plan, mix and match these colors to ensure variety at every meal. Research indicates that antioxidants can work together like a team, each boosting the other's effects. For a head start, try one of these delicious recipes, which have a minimum of two colors each — most have three.

Corn, Mango, and Edamame Salad

In addition to folate and fiber, corn contains a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin. Eating a diet high in this compound, which is also found in papaya, pumpkin, tangerines, and peaches, may reduce lung cancer risk by up to 24%, according to a recent study.

  • 2 c frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 1/2 c fresh corn kernels (from 2 lg ears)
  • 1 1/2 c mango cubes (about 1 med mango)
  • 1 c chopped tomato (about 1 lg)
  • 1/2 c chopped red onion (about 1 sm)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed
  • lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 6

Prepare edamame per package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in corn, mango, tomato, onion, cilantro, oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Toss well.

Nutritional info per serving: 160 cal, 9g pro, 22g carb, 5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 0mg chol, 6g fiber, 303mg sodium

Crudités with Romesco Sauce

This nibbling platter is packed with beta-carotene and vitamin C, two cancer-fighting antioxidants that work together to ward off cellular damage. Red bell pepper and tomatoes — the base of the tangy sauce — are also a good source of cancer-protective lycopene.

  • 3 lg red bell peppers
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 plum tomato, quartered
  • 1 slice multigrain bread, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 carrots, trimmed and cut into 2"-3" strips
  • 1 lg or 2 sm cucumbers, cut into 2"-3" strips
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and cut into 2"-3" strips
  • 1/2 lb yellow wax beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed

Time: 35 minutes + chilling time

Servings: 8

1. Preheat broiler with rack about 4" from heat.

2. Place the 3 whole peppers on baking sheet and broil, turning every 3 minutes, until skins are blistered and charred, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer peppers to medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam 10 minutes. Peel, and discard stems, seeds, and ribs.

3. Combine oil, almonds, and garlic in small skillet over medium heat while peppers roast. Cook, stirring often, until almonds and garlic are lightly golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Put roasted peppers and tomato in blender and puree. Add oil mixture and bread and puree. Pour in vinegar, paprika, salt, and black pepper and puree. Transfer to serving bowl and chill sauce 20 minutes or until ready to serve.

5. Arrange carrots, cucumber, fennel, and beans on platter. Serve with romesco sauce.

Nutritional info per serving: 118 cal, 3g pro, 14g carb, 7g fat, 1g sat fat, 0mg chol, 5g fiber, 278mg sodium

Cauliflower Soup with Grilled Shrimp

One cup of cauliflower contains nearly two-thirds of a full day's worth of vitamin C, a high intake of which may be linked to a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • 3 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 c chopped red onion (1 med)
  • 1/2 c chopped celery
  • 4 c cauliflower florets (about 1 1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 oz lg shrimp, peeled and deveined (8-12 shrimp)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/3 c fat-free evaporated milk

Time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Coat grill rack with cooking spray.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and coriander. Cook 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

3. Season shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Grill until opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

4. Puree soup in batches. Return to pot. Stir in milk and remaining salt and pepper. Warm over medium heat until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve with shrimp.

Nutritional info per serving:  (1 1/4 cups) 198 cal, 23g pro, 17g carb, 6g fat, 1g sat fat, 127mg chol, 4.5g fiber, 579mg sodium

Herb-Roasted Potato Medley

All potatoes are good sources of vitamin C and fiber, but purple potatoes offer a dose of anthocyanins, which may help protect against heart disease and diabetes.

  • 2 lb baby potato mix (purple, red creamers, white creamers)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and toss well. Arrange potatoes in single layer on baking sheet. Roast, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and tender, 23 to 25 minutes.

Nutritional info per serving:  146 cal, 4g pro, 27g carb, 2.5g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 0mg chol, 2g fiber, 397mg sodium