No, we’re not talking Skittles, colored with Blue #1, Red #40, and Yellow #6–we’re talking red bell peppers, butternut squash, bananas, kale, blackberries and eggplants. One of the easiest rules when it comes to eating healthy is to make sure that your plate is as colorful as possible—with natural food colors, though! Those artificial food colorings that trail along at the end of almost every packaged ‘ingredients’ label can have some frightening effects on the body—including hyperthyroidism, hyperactivity in children, and even allergic reactions.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, though, a general rule of thumb is that the darker or more vivid the color, the more packed with healthful nutrients it is.

Red fruits and vegetables (like beets, cranberries, pomegranates, rhubarbs and tomatoes) are chock-full of nutrients like lycopene that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, reduce tumor growth in existing cancers, and lower LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels.

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, including pumpkin, bananas, carrots, and sweet potatoes, pack a punch with beta-carotene, flavonoids, potassium and vitamin C, which can promote healthy joints, fight harmful free radicals, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones.

Greens are sometimes the easiest to find! Spinach, broccoli, avocado, kiwi and cucumbers are all contain chlorophyll, calcium, folate, and lutein, among other nutrients; they can help reduce cancer risks and lower blood pressure, normalize digestion, improve your retinal health and boost your immune system.

Blue and purple fruits and veggies, like the others listed, can do wonders for your cholesterol and digestion, but they also fight inflammation and limit the activity of cancer cells, along with improving the absorption of calcium and other minerals. Try black currants, plums, grapes, figs and raisins.

An often forgotten group of vegetables and fruits are the white ones, such as ginger, mushrooms, onions, jicama, and garlic. While they may not pack the visual punch of their more colorful counterparts, they contain nutrients that boost the immune system, balance hormone levels, and reduce the risk of colon, breast and prostate cancers.

So next time you look at your plate, ask yourself this—how many (natural) colors are present? The more there are, the healthier you’re eating!

Growsmc.org Greaterbethesdachamber.org