Color is a key element of the full sensory experience of eating and plays a big role in making food attractive and desirable. That’s why it makes perfect sense that nature’s most nutrient-dense foods are designed to be colorful.
Food has the amazing power to influence everything from your mood to overall health. You can maximize your body’s potential for radiantly-good health by fueling your body with a rainbow of plants. You will feel light and energized from eating this way instead of having that sleepy, sluggish feeling a “beige” diet of processed, refined foods leaves you with.
Think of your plate as a canvas; add splashes of vibrant, vivid colors to optimize nutrient density and to shower your body with the entire phytochemical spectrum.
What are phytochemicals, you ask? Phytochemicals are plant compounds that provide cell-protective antioxidant power and impart different colors to plant foods. That’s why it’s so important to think in terms of eating from the rainbow. More than 10,000 phytochemicals have been found and scientists speculate there are several thousand more yet to be discovered.
Plants produce phytochemicals to protect themselves from environmental threats such as the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When we eat plant foods, they impart these protective properties to our bodies and offer disease prevention in a number of complex ways.
For example, lycopene is responsible for the red coloring of watermelon and tomatoes and offers skin protection from the sun, while anthocyanins give blueberries their deep-blue hue and can help slow age-related memory loss by protecting the brain from oxidative stress. Lutein and zeaxanthin provide emerald green coloring to broccoli, kale and spinach and play a key role in maintaining healthy vision.
Phytochemical foods exert their antioxidant power by shielding our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Each phytochemical has a fancy scientific name, but all you have to remember is to eat the rainbow in plant foods every day and you will get the full spectrum of phytochemicals.
When it comes to a glowing complexion, nourishing your skin from the inside-out is just as important as what you put on your skin. Eating the right foods can help protect skin from oxidative stress that contributes to the aging process, clear up acne and brighten a dull complexion. Here are some ingredients for attaining radiant skin.
As the name implies, this juicy, super-sweet fruit is over 90 percent water and keeps skin smooth and firm by hydrating cells so they’re plump and full. Watermelon is rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that gives watermelon its pink hue and provides protection against damaging ultraviolet rays. Enjoy a watermelon salad that’s bursting with flavor by simply cutting the watermelon into cubes and combining with spicy arugula, thinly sliced red onion, red-wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese.
Pepitas are hulled pumpkin seeds that are loaded with zinc, a mineral that’s involved in many biochemical processes throughout the body, including skin-cell renewal. A great addition to a homemade trail mix or sprinkled into oatmeal or yogurt, these green seeds have a delicate crunch and a nutty, slightly-sweet flavor. To deepen the flavor of pepitas, stir frequently in a small skillet over medium heat until golden-brown.
This sweet, juicy tropical fruit is chock-full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that plays a strong role in the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein that is essential for keeping skin firm and elastic. Select pineapple with a sweet fragrance at the stem end and make sure it is heavy for its size. Create a dazzling salad that’s brimming with vitamin C by mixing pineapple with other tropical fruits such as kiwi, mango and papaya.
If you want a summer tan, crunching on carrots can give you a sun-kissed look without spray tans or damaging sun exposure. The carotenoid antioxidants in carrots, including beta-carotene, give carrots their deep orange coloring and provide a subtle natural tan by the pigments getting deposited in the skin. Beta-carotene keeps skin youthful by targeting and repairing skin damage as well as protecting skin from the ravages of excess sun exposure. Snack on baby carrots dipped in protein-rich hummus or almond butter. Shredded raw carrots add a sweet flavor and bright pop of orange to salads.
Here are three great recipes you can try that incorporate these ingredients.
Almond Butter Log
Time: 50 minutes
1 ripe banana
2-3 cups raw almonds
Blend the raw almonds in a blender or food processor.
Stop and stir the nuts every 5 minutes. During the process, the almonds will have the appearance of crumbs but be patient; this can take up to 30 minutes.
Continue blending until the consistency is even.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel one ripe banana and cut down the center as if you were making a banana split.
Place the banana on a baking sheet line with aluminum foil, and fill with 1-2 teaspoons of the homemade almond butter.
Gently press the sides together and wrap with foil.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Let the banana log cool on baking sheet before eating.
Spicy Arugula Watermelon Salad
Time: 20 minutes
½ giant chilled watermelon, cubed or thinly sliced
1 peeled cucumber, diced
1 red tomato, diced
1 yellow tomato, diced
2 tablespoons red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons chives, thinly chopped
2 tablespoons basil leaves, cut into strips
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 avocado, diced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a large bowl mix the fruit, vegetables, then combine with spicy arugula.
In a small dish, whisk together red wine vinegar and olive oil, drizzle dressing over salad and garnish with herbs and goat cheese.
Pineapple Chicken Spread
Time: 55 minutes
3 grilled chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 ½ cups pineapple, diced
¼ cup cucumber, diced
¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup yellow bell pepper, diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 cup guacamole dip
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Halve the large pineapple lengthwise, and then hollow out one half.
Reserve 1 ½ cup of the fruit for the chicken spread and save the remainder for future use.
Lightly season chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper to taste and grill over medium heat in a large skillet in 2 teaspoons olive Oil.
Once both sides are evenly grilled and tender, remove from heat and let rest for up to 5 minutes.
While the chicken breasts are cooling down, use this time to wash and cut the vegetables. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix gently.
Juice the lime and add the remaining sea salt if necessary.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. This will give all of your ingredients time to settle which will intensify the flavor.
Fill the hollowed pineapple with the chicken spread mixture and serve with crackers for party guests or serve in a whole wheat pita pocket for a handy, on-the-go lunch.