Colorful and Healthy Eating Through the Seasons
As summer transitions to fall, colors changes are evident from the leaves on the trees to the fruits and vegetables that peak this time of year. The colors of the foods we eat are usually linked with the nutrients they contain, so filling your plate with whole foods in a range of different colors means filling your body with a range of nutrients, as well. This time of year especially, seasonal produce contains the colors of the rainbow and many vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.
By incorporating foods of the season into your diet -- along with whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy -- it's easy to form healthy eating habits. Enjoying in season fruits and vegetables is also a way to keep grocery costs lower since these items are more widely available. Check out the National Kidney Foundation's guide to protecting your kidneys by eating healthy foods, broken down by color.
*Please note that this guide is meant to help reduce risk of kidney disease through healthy eating and is not intended for people who are on dialysis or those who must limit certain nutrients.
It's no coincidence that GREEN fruits and vegetables contain some of the same antioxidants and nutrients.
- Pears are an easy grab-and-go snack and contain antioxidants. They are also an excellent source of potassium and soluble fiber (the kind that helps lower blood cholesterol). Full of natural flavor, pears don't contain any fat, cholesterol or sodium making them a healthy addition to salads, sandwiches and oatmeal.
- Apples are a traditional fall favorite. They are low in calories, high in fiber and contain powerful antioxidants. Pair a delicious apple with peanut butter or cheese for protein and you'll have a satisfying and nutritious snack. For a healthy dessert, try baked apples (or pears) sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with low fat yogurt.
- Broccoli more than just a side vegetable, it makes a great addition to pastas and stir-fries and an excellent topping for pizza and baked potatoes. Broccoli is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate and Potassium, so a head of broccoli means a boost of health.
In the fall, the color ORANGE is associated with leaves, Halloween, pumpkin picking and year-round it's even is the official color of the National Kidney Foundation.
- Pumpkins are a great source of powerful antioxidants including beta carotene, which is good for the eyes. They also contain potassium and are low in calories, fat and sodium. Pumpkin can be used in a variety of soups, desserts and baked goods. And don't just discard the pumpkin seeds. They are high in protein and contain magnesium and iron.
- Winter squash starts to peak in the fall and is in season from August until March. There are many varieties including butternut, spaghetti and acorn. This vegetable is quite versatile and can be mashed or roasted, eaten as a snack or side dish. Usually, the darker the skin, the higher the beta carotene content is inside. Winter squash contains many nutrients including fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and potassium.
- Carrots are available year-round, but they are also a staple in many fall recipes. They make for a great snack and an easy way to add a healthy crunch to salads. Carrots contain Vitamin A and potassium.
A bold color associated with the heat that summer brings, many RED fruits and vegetables peak this time of year.
- Beets are root vegetables that are available year-round in the U.S., but local beets come into their prime during the summer and early fall. Beets are a high in Folate and are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.
- Strawberries scream summer and contain lots of Vitamin C! With a short peak growing season, try to enjoy strawberries before they are hard to find or much more expensive. Strawberries are high in fiber so they will fill you up without weighing you down. Slice them up and mix them in yogurt or oatmeal for a healthy breakfast.
- Tomatoes come in many shapes and sizes. Red tomatoes are usually the easiest to find, but they even come in other varieties such as green, yellow and purple tomatoes. They are commonly eaten both raw and cooked, and make an easy addition to salads and pasta salads. Tomatoes contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and lycopene. Since the cooking process brings out lycopene, cooked tomatoes contain higher levels of this antioxidant.
- Grapes the skin of grapes contains many antioxidants, including resveratrol, a compound believed to have anti-aging effects. Locally grown grapes are usually only available from July to December. Grapes are low in calories and can be easily frozen for a refreshing snack on a hot day. Try slicing them and adding to salads and salsas or enjoy them right off the stem.
- Eggplants are a hearty vegetable and make a good meat substitute. Add them to lasagna to make a tasty vegetarian meal filled with fiber, folic acid, and phosphorus. If you roast or sauté the eggplant before cooking it, you'll bring out its flavor complexity.
- Cabbage in coleslaw may have been a staple at your picnics and BBQs this summer, but don't forget about this vegetable come late summer and early fall. It's low in calories and full of fiber, potassium, Vitamin A, calcium and iron.
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