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Eat a rainbow of food

Media contact:

Linda Geist
Writer
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185
Email: GeistLi@missouri.edu

Photo available for this release:

Choose from a wide spectrum of brightly colored fruits and vegetables to get the best vitamins.

Credit: Photo by Jessica Salmond

Published: Friday, July 11, 2014

Story source:

Janet Hackert, 660-425-6434

BETHANY, Mo. – Think of a rainbow when planning your summer meals, says Janet Hackert, University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.

Vegetable gardens, farmers markets and seasonal offerings from the local grocer provide nutrients for good health. Choose from a wide spectrum of brightly colored fruits and vegetables to get the best vitamins, Hackert says.

Red strawberries, raspberries and watermelons provide vitamin C. Tomatoes add a boost of lycopene, which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Vitamin C helps heal cuts, fights infection and keeps teeth and gums healthy. It also helps bodies absorb iron better, especially iron from iron-rich plant sources such as spinach and beans.

A half-cup of strawberries contains 70 percent of the daily vitamin C requirements. A cantaloupe contains a whopping 93 percent of daily vitamin C needs, Hackert says. Some other good sources are spinach, potatoes, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi.

Orange, yellow and dark green vegetables and fruits are likely to be rich in vitamin A, which is significant for good eye health and helps eyes adjust to the dark. Vitamin A also keeps hair and skin looking healthy and protects against eye infection.

Most people know that carrots are a good source of vitamin A. But did you know that a small handful of baby carrots or a half cup of carrot sticks has 383 percent of the amount of vitamin A most Americans need daily? Hackert says a small amount of fresh budget-friendly carrots can add color, taste and nutrition to your meal or stand alone as a snack. 

When going to the garden or farmers market, consider sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, broccoli, spinach and other dark green vegetables such as collards and kale. All are high in vitamin A. Dark green options also offer vitamin K, potassium, lutein and zeaxanthin. Potassium helps us maintain healthy blood pressure and aids in muscle contraction.

Blueberries provide a wealth of antioxidants to prevent certain cancers, eye diseases and varicose veins. Blueberries might help prevent diabetes, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease. Infused with vitamins A, C and K, in addition to potassium, they add color to your healthy rainbow of foods, Hackert says.

Purple grapes, plums and eggplant are traditional ways to add purple to your plate, but today you’ll find interesting purple varieties of tomatoes, carrots and cabbage.

For more information about the amounts of vitamins A and C in common vegetables, see MU Extension guide G6201, “Vegetable Planting Calendar,” available for free download at http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g6201