Thursday, January 6, 2011

Commit to Health Series: Deep, Dark, and Delicious

Some things in life are just fine when they're pale: skin that's been out of the sun's harmful rays, paint on walls or white sheets on a bed. But when it comes to healthy food, deep and dark is better. Eating foods with a lot of color is one way to really up your vitamin intake. Let me clarify, by color I do not mean Fruity Pebbles. I'm talking dark red beets, deep leafy greens like chard and spinach, bright orange butternut squash, dark green broccoli, black beans, purple plums, cheery purple cranberries, and dark chocolate anything. I promise, that chocolate is good for you! It has polyphenols that help with heart health. Just don't eat a whole mega Hershey bar of it! And fruits can come in healthy colors, too. Try pineapple, mangoes, kiwis, oranges, strawberries and figs for some deep dark color.

Colorful foods contain more vitamins and things called flavonoids that keep you healthy and protect from chronic diseases. After recovering from damage done to our bodies by celiac disease, we celiacs need all the help we can get to boost our bodies' repair. Imagine trying to build a house with no bricks or wood. That's how our bodies feel when trying to heal intestinal damage without extra vitamins and nutrients from healthy food. Eating junk food is like building your house with mud. You could live in it, but it wouldn't be very nice.

Next time you buzz through the aisles of the produce department, stop and look at the lettuce you're buying. Is it pale white iceberg lettuce (with little or no nutritional value)? Or is it a darker romaine or leaf lettuce or even spinach or peppery arugula? One simple change can really give your body more efficient fuel. Look for deep dark vegetables and maybe they can make the list of your new foods to try this year. Start out easy with broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach, and work your way up to kale and acorn squash. Don't forget to buy some colorful fruit while you're there, too. Try a starfruit, or get a package of berries or some dried apricots. Switch to a dark chocolate baking cocoa (Hershey makes one) and try it in your dessert recipes.

One of my favorite snacks is a bowl of bright green edamame with coarse salt sprinkled over it. In case you haven't tried edamame, it's simply soybeans steamed either in or out of their pod. They sell the shelled ones in the freezer section and they steam up well in the microwave for a quick snack packed with equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates. And I love that bright green color.

As always, there is an exception to everything, and my one exception in this case is cauliflower. I love it. It's one of my favorite vegetables, cooked or raw, and it's a great source of Vitamin C. Buying it frozen is a really convenient way to get some into your diet. And if you don't like the taste, now they make them with flavors, like this garlic cauliflower I found today.

There's a great website by the Center for Disease Control called fruitsandveggiesmatter, and if you have more questions about vegetables and fruits and their benefits, check it out. Commit to some color! Eating healthier is just one smart choice away.

Happy eating!

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