National Nutrition Month 2011: Blue and Green

National Nutrition Month has been a good one at The Resort. We’ve been following along with the theme of, ‘Eat Right with Color,’ by talking about the importance of eating various different colors of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts this month, there are so many wonderful health benefits that come from eating a variety of colorul foods. Each color pigment effects health in a different way. When it comes to the green and blue color pigments found naturally in foods, important health benefits exist, including:
Blue Color Pigment
  • Protects cells from damage
  • Reduces risk of cancer
  • Helps prevent stroke and heart disease
  • Improves memory function
  • Promotes healthy aging
  • Maintains urinary tract health
Green Color Pigment
  • Maintains healthy eyes
  • Helps maintain strong bones and teeth
  • Protects against cancer
There are a lot of green and blue foods, including some real nutritional powerhouses. Below is some information about a few of these foods that would make great additions to your meal plan.
Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Additionally they are a powerful antioxidant, which makes them great for protecting our cells from damage. One cup of fresh or frozen blueberries has only approximately 80 calories, so blueberries are a great way to get in volume without excessive calories. Blueberries are wonderful as part of a healthy breakfast or snack–add them to cereals, oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt, or use as a topping for whole grain pancakes, waffles, or frozen yogurt. They are also great in salads.
Spinach is packed with nutrients, including: vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s also very low in calories–1 cup of raw spinach is only about 7 calories. Spinach can be used in a variety of ways. Replace iceberg lettuce with baby spinach and get a real nutritional boost from your salads. When cooking spinach, this should be done very quickly, either by steaming or by sauteing with a minimum of water, just until the leaves wilt. That way, much of the nutritional value can be preserved. Spinach can be added to various dishes like soups, casseroles and stir fries, or served as a side dish. Additionally, you can add raw spinach when making smoothies. Give this a try–it may not sound that appealing, but it really doesn’t make the smoothie taste like spinach, and it provides a great nutritional boost.
Brussels Sprouts:
Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin A and potassium. This cruciferous vegetable also contains calcium, iron and phytochemicals that help prevent cancer. We serve Brussels sprouts often at The Resort because they are packed with good nutrition while being low in calories–1/2 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains only 25 calories. Brussels sprouts can be cooked in a variety of ways, including: boiled, braised, steamed, roasted or microwaved. Be careful not to overcook, as this will turn the stems mushy. If you cut an ‘X’ at the base of the sprouts, this helps the heat to penetrate the core and allows the sprout to cook evenly. Brussels sprouts make a great vegetable side dish. You can also add them to soups, stews and casseroles.
Soybeans area a great balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber. They are an excellent source of iron, vitamin B6 and phosphorous and a good source of potassium and calcium. Edamame, or ‘baby soybeans’ make a great snack–you can purchase these either fresh or frozen. One-half cup of shelled edamame contains approximately 100 calories, 12 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. Soybeans can be eaten fresh, roasted, ground into flour or pressed into oil. Soybeans are utilized in many products these days, including foods like tofu, tempeh, soy milk and soy cheese. Soybeans are a great way of incorporating vegetarian protein sources into your meal plan.
Pistachio Nuts:
Pistachio nuts have a thin, hard, tan shell that partially splits open when the nut is ripe. Inside the shell is a smooth, pale-green kernel that has a really nice delicate and sweet flavor. Pistachios are a great source of many nutrients, including: iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and thiamin. Additionally, the main fat in these nuts is monounsaturated fat, which helps to increase our HDL or good cholesterol and decrease our LDL or bad cholesterol. Pistachios can be eaten as a snack either raw or roasted–1/2 cup of pistachios in the shell is about 160 calories. Pistachios can also be added to various dishes. They work really well in desserts, but can also be used in meat dishes, stuffings and sauces like pesto sauce.
And there are so many other blue and green colored foods that can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan. So add a little blue and green to your plate and reap the nutritional benefits!
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD