Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eat the Rainbow

White, green, red, purple, yellow, orange. And assorted beiges.

They say to eat lots of different colors -- different vitamins and nutrients show up in plants that are colored in particular ways.

Beta carotene, for instance -- that fabulous anti-oxidant that the body uses to make Vitamin A -- is found primarily in red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables.

Leafy green vegetables tend to be good sources of folate, a B vitamin, and also contain lutein which helps to keep eyes healthy.

The anti-oxidant anthocyanin shows up in blue and purple foods -- blueberries, eggplant, plums, purple grapes.

As Dr. Campbell likes to remind us, there has never been a "magic bullet" nutrient. His example is a study linking increased tomato consumption (tomatoes are high in lycopene) to a lowered risk of prostate cancer. Nobody had ever heard of lycopene before, but suddenly there was a run on supplements at the health food store. And -- no corresponding decrease in prostate cancer. He does not take supplements, believing them to be (for the most part) untested, and uncontrolled. When we eat a tomato, he explains, we are not just consuming lycopene. We are eating dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of chemicals (some of which we haven't even discovered yet), and that symphony of ingredients works together to provide our bodies with everything we need. If we eat whole foods, and a variety of them, we do not need to worry whether or not we are getting the right things for our body. (He likes to remind us that in countries where women take calcium supplements there is a greater risk of osteoporosis than in countries where women do not take those supplements.)

There is one exception, of course: Vitamin B12. This nutrient is created by bacteria that live in fertile, healthy soil. In times past vegans would consume enough of this naturally, but we are clean freaks now (we don't get cholera or typhoid, Campbell adds, so it's a good trade off) and our diets may be lacking in this important substance. I try to take three pills a week -- Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays. I forget a LOT. But that is the only supplement I take (another reason why eating this way is less expensive than eating SAD (Standard American Diet). We store about a two-year supply of this nutrient, so skipping a few doses isn't critical.

I went to Whole Foods and loaded up. In my salad today I have a foundation of mixed greens, thick slices of cucumber, broccoli florets (I like it raw!), edamame, chickpeas, a marinated mushroom salad, slivered carrots, corn, peas, red cabbage, a quinoa pilaf with almonds and raisins, dried cranberries, a beet and sweet potato salad ("Beets and Sweets")...happy sigh. When I get home I'm going to start making more salads. I never serve them -- when I eat them at home they always make me feel like I'm on a diet, but Bruce likes them and I think my tastes are changing a bit. Not that I ever DIDN'T like them, I just only ate them when I was out. I used a bottled dressing, Maple Grove Farms Fat Free Raspberry Vinaigrette. And for dessert I picked up some date rolls (basically, just dates smooshed up and rolled in a bit of coconut) and their "energy squares" (which are wonderful -- dates and chocolate chips and cocoa) -- all plant based, of course!

More later...

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