Red speaks to our hearts, while green speaks to our brains, but what of yellow, and even white? The colorful compounds of veggies deliver important health and nutritional benefits to different parts to growing bodies. A look into what veggie brilliance means to kids.
Here’s a fun after-school activity: Give your kid six crayons and ask him or her to draw the picture of health. Next, take that picture and duplicate it on a plate. How many veggies do you think will be are there?
Chances are, more than six. Veggies, from eggplants to tomatoes, wear their nutritional value on their skins. Each naturally occurring hue – the bright reds, vibrant greens, deep purples and even creamy whites – holds a key that unlocks specific nutrients to benefit various parts of growing bodies.
This is why nutritionists and pediatricians recommend we feed our kids a rainbow of foods – because these colors work best when combined, complementing each other like merging pieces of a nutritional kaleidoscope. The spectrum of benefits ranges from improved memory to strong bones, and even mood control.
Color curious? Let’s look and see what is on the other side of the veggie rainbow.
Red: Winning Hearts, Fighting Colds
There is a reason red bell peppers are heart-shaped. These sweet veggies, as well as tomatoes and red cabbage, are chockablock with vitamins A and C, manganese and fiber, making them great for healthy hearts and bodies. A serving of red bell pepper provides about one-third more vitamin C than an orange. Red cabbage is a good source of calcium, iron and B6. Bonus nutrient: Tomatoes are among the few foods that offer lycopene, a compound that research shows to fight cancer.
Orange: Scoring an A+
Next time you serve your kid sweet potatoes, tell her it’s all the better to see you with. This and other orange veggies carry their weight’s worth of vitamin A, which is essential for good vision. A cup of raw carrots packs more than 400 percent the daily value of vitamin A; sweet potatoes deliver 377 percent; and butternut squash, about 300 percent. Our friend the pumpkin makes for an easy-on-the-eye pie, at 170 percent. Some of these veggies also are good sources of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure
Yellow: For Sunny Smiles
While yellow food dyes are linked to hyperactivity, naturally occurring yellow foods produce a warm glow. Healthy skin and stronger bones and teeth are among the rewards of eating yellow veggies such as squash, bell peppers and corn. These cheerful veggies are rich in antioxidants, including magnesium, to strengthen young hearts, vision, digestion and immune systems. Corn is also high in vitamin B6, important for metabolism.
Green: Get Total Recall
Next time your kid sits down to do homework, offer a snack of broccoli and green peas. These and other green veggies, including spinach, Brussels sprouts and asparagus, are teeming with folic acid, which research shows to improve memory. Additionally, peas, collard greens and lima beans are good sources of iron. Leafy greens bring the folic acid along with vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin – good for the eyes.
Purple: Dark Matters
The darker the veggie, the more antioxidants it contains. Eggplants, purple cabbage, purple potatoes and purple carrots, which are rich in vitamin A, anthocyanin and flavonoids, help boost immunity, manage blood pressure, enhance brain power and strengthen little hearts. Look for new varieties of veggies in this color, including asparagus and corn, which look darn good on the plate.
White: Fairing Well
True, bright colors do represent different nutritional benefits, but we should not be blind to white. The humble cauliflower is an excellent source of protein, magnesium and vitamins C, K and B6. White cabbage, meanwhile, brings us vitamins A, B, C and K along with calcium, iron and fiber. Parsnips also contain vitamins C and K, folic acid and fiber, while onions and garlic improve immunity.
Veggies are a rainbow of nutrition that leads to the treasure of good health, which beats a pot of gold any day.