Bright Foods Are Best, New Studies Show
By Nissa Simon
Some of the brightest summer foods are packed with the most powerful health benefits. Phytochemicals, potent compounds that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, may help you shed belly fat, slow the aging process, prevent disease, improve your skin and protect your heart.
Scientists are just learning that they provide benefits beyond those offered by vitamins and minerals and may help safeguard cells and tissues from damage. Research even shows they may fight infection and guard your memory.
“The evidence has never been more compelling that a healthy diet can slow down age-related changes that lead to chronic disease, and it’s never too late to start,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University.
The names of these phytochemicals are a tongue-twisting babel. Tea contains polyphenols; tomatoes are rich in lycopene; grapes have an abundance of resveratrol; broccoli bulges with sulforaphane; dark green leaves like spinach and kale contain lutein and zeaxanthin to help, protect your eyes. The list goes on.
Because fruits, vegetables and other plant foods such as legumes, nuts, whole grains and tea are complex mixtures of nutrients, scientists are pretty sure that phytochemicals don’t act in isolation but work their magic in tandem with other substances found in food. Although we have the knowledge to manufacture pills isolating the ingredients we want, the science is new enough that we don’t yet know what we’re leaving out.
So next time you’re at the market, go for the bright colors, which often pack more of a nutritional wallop than their pale cousins. Reach for fruits and vegetables like watermelon, carrots, mangoes and squash. Nab a bunch of broccoli, pick up some red and green peppers. Oftentimes, the brighter they are, the better for your health, though there are exceptions. New studies looking at mushrooms and garlic, for example, find that eating these earthy foods gives health benefits as well.
Text Editor: Elizabeth Agnvall
Art Direction: Gina Saunders
Producer: Michael Wichita
Nissa Simon of New Haven, Conn., writes about health issues.