It’s time to add a little color to your cheeks !

You can use the color of food as a guide to making healthful choices. When choosing fruits and vegetables and even some grains, the richer, deeper colors tend to offer the most nutrition. Chances are, the more colors you choose, the more vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting substances you will get. Take a look.

Green-Vegetables are it. Dark green choices, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach and romaine lettuce contain vitamin C, folic acid, beta-carotene and all sorts of phytochemicals that may protect against cancer, heart disease and eye-disorders such as macular degeneration. As a rule of thumb, the darker and deeper the hues-the more nutrients you’ll find.

Orange-Carrots top the list of orange foods. But there are also oranges, apricots, sweet potatoes, squash and cantaloupe. These foods are good sources of beta-carotene and other antioxidants, which may strengthen your immune system and help in the production of anti-cancer enzymes.

Red, blue and purple-Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, tomatoes, red peppers and other “blushed” produce contain vitamins and antioxidants that, in laboratories, have stalled the growth of cancer cells. Some phytochemicals in these foods may help preserve memory and brain function; others may lower the risk for heart disease by improving blood flow to the heart.

Yellow-Brightly colored produce such as corn, peppers, pumpkin and squash contain two powerful antioxidants that are believed to help prevent macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss in older adults.

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Brown-Whole-grain foods including cereals, bread, rice and whole-wheat pasta contain several kinds of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which studies suggest lower heart disease and cancer risk. Tea, another brown-hued food, appears to have cancer-protecting capabilities, too. It is believed that the polyphenols in tea deactivate cancer-promoting substances in the body. Finally, beans, including soybeans, kidney beans and other legumes, may slow tumor growth, help prevent cancer cells from multiplying and reduce the risk of some hormonal cancers, such as breast or ovarian cancer.

Phytochemicals are a fairly new discovery. While many have been identified, scientists believe there are probably thousands more waiting to be uncovered. Experts believe there is a synergy or cooperative action between phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber in food and that the health-enhancing actions of these substances come from how they work together. In other words, choose whole foods to get your daily dose of good nutrition.

A GREAT START TOWARD TOTAL NUTRITION…

Plan your plate with color in mind. Start with whole grains. Add deeply colored fruits and vegetables to the meal. Use meat as an accessory. (Note: Phytochemicals are found only in plant-based foods.)