During the gray days of early spring, vividly colored foods can do a lot to brighten your plate--and your mood. And there's an added payoff: Foods in shades of blue, green, orange and red are rich in phytochemicals that can act as antioxidants and fight a host of ailments, including heart disease and cancer. Here's a quick nutritional color key:
Blue-reds (such as cherries, plums, blue-berries, pomegranates) contain vitamin C and pigments called anthocyanins; both are strong antioxidants that inactivate cancer-causing substances.
Dark greens (such as spinach, chard, collard greens, kale, broccoli) contain chlorophyll, a potent defense against a variety of cancers, especially those of the stomach, colon and liver.
Oranges (such as butternut and acorn squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe) contain carotenoids (beta carotene is one), fierce antioxidants that help prevent cancer. Studies also show that beta carotene (which is converted into vitamin A in the body) lowers heart-attack risk.
Reds (such as tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit) contain lycopene, another powerful antioxidant, which aids in fighting lung, bladder, colon, prostate and breast cancers, as well as heart disease.
Aim to include eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet daily, and make sure they come in a variety of hues. You will lower not only your risk for cancer and heart disease, but also your odds for obesity: Research shows that a diet packed with high-fiber fruits and vegetables enhances weight-loss efforts.
Glazed Chicken With Maple-Orange Sweet Potatoes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Place peeled and cubed sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of chicken with salt and black pepper. Add chicken to hot pan and cook 1 minute per side, until golden brown.
Whisk together orange juice, maple syrup, brown sugar and cloves. Pour mixture over chicken. Arrange sweet potatoes around chicken in pan.
Cook 10 minutes, uncovered, until chicken breasts are cooked through, sweet potatoes are tender and maple-orange sauce is thick and bubbly.
Nutrition Score per serving (1 chicken breast half, 1 cup sweet potatoes): 474 calories, 10% fat (5 g; 1 g saturated), 64% carbs (76 g), 26% protein (31 g), 7 g fiber, 104 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 90 mg sodium.
Fried Rice With Carrots, Tomato and Pine Nuts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Heat sesame oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add half of the green onions, half of the garlic and all of the tofu and saute 3-5 minutes, until tofu is golden on all sides. Add rice, carrots, tomato and soy sauce and stir to coat.
Add chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in remaining green onions.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pine nuts and remaining garlic and cook 1 minute. Add kale (don't worry about there not being enough room in the pan; the kale will wilt quickly) and cook 1 minute, until leaves wilt, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and season with salt and black pepper.
Serve fried rice with kale on the side.
Nutrition Score per serving (1 1/4 cups fried rice, 1/2 cup kale mixture): 330 calories, 26% fat (10 g; 1 g saturated), 57% carbs (47 g), 17% protein (14 g), 5 g fiber, 107 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 632 mg sodium.
Horseradish-Crusted Salmon With Quinoa and Chard
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Preheat oven to 425[degrees] F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine horseradish and parsley. Mix well with a fork.
Season flesh side of salmon fillets with salt and black pepper and transfer fish, flesh side up, to prepared baking sheet. Spread horseradish mixture over top of fish. Bake 10-15 minutes, until fish is fork-tender.
Meanwhile, combine quinoa and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 8 minutes.
Place chard or collard greens on top of quinoa, cover and cook 2 more minutes, until liquid is fully absorbed, quinoa is translucent and greens are wilted. Remove from heat, toss to combine and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve salmon with quinoa mixture on the side.
Nutrition Score per serving (1 salmon fillet, 3/4 cup quinoa mixture): 343 calories, 29% fat (11 g; 3 g saturated), 36% carbs (31 g), 35% protein (30 g), 3 g fiber, 89 mg calcium, 5 mg iron, 126 mg sodium.
RELATED ARTICLE: colorful grab-'n'-go snacks
These fruit and veggie snack options, from every spectrum of the rainbow, are all high in nutrients--and fat-free!
Robin Vitetta-Miller, M.S., a food writer based in Yardley, Pa., appears regularly on CNN Headline News to discuss nutrition and health topics.
By Robin Vitetta-Miller, M.S. Photography by Lisa Thompson
COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group