Tag Archives: Fruits

30 Days to Better Health: Part II

8. Switch out a glass of fruit juice for a piece of fruit. Even if your fruit juice of choice is made of 100% fruit juice and doesn’t contain added sweeteners, whole fruit is still a better choice. Compare an apple and apple juice: one apple has 77 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of sugar; one cup of apple juice has 114 calories, 0 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of sugar. The juice has been stripped of all its hunger-quashing fiber found in the pith, skin, and flesh, and it’s also packed with more sugar. And in terms of the apple, the peel contains the bulk of antioxidants, like muscle-building ursolic acid, that you would otherwise miss out on.

9. Instead of bottled salad dressings, try salsa and a splash of olive oil. Bottled salad dressings often contain preservatives, unnecessary sugars, and chemical additives. In a condiment that should really contain two or three real, whole-food ingredients, additives like calcium disodium EDTA (currently being investigated for mutagenic and reproductive effects), sodium benzoate (linked to hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children), and MSG (a possible cause of chronic headaches) are all too common. Bottled dressings span a huge caloric range; some are ridiculously hypercaloric, while other fat-free varieties have five calories per serving. These low-calorie and low-fat varieties aren’t necessarily a healthier choice though. Fat-soluble vitamins in many greens and vegetables require fats to be absorbed by the body; by eating them without fats, their nutritional value drops significantly. For a healthy and flavorful dressing, add a couple dollops of salsa, along with a couple drops of olive oil, to your salad. Not only will you add another serving of vegetables to your meal, you’ll avoid dangerous and sugary fillers.

10. Order an appetizer instead of an entree. Dining out can be dangerous because of the huge serving sizes restaurants are churning out. Many chefs admit to making entrees that are two to four times as big as a normal portion; a 2002 study found that restaurant steaks are 144% bigger than the USDA’s recommended serving size and a muffin is an astonishing 233% bigger. Since appetizers are smaller than entrees, they’re generally safer picks simply because they have less calories. They’re also a good choice because they’re often not weighed down by hefty sides like mashed potatoes, fries, or macaroni and cheese. Beware appetizers like fried mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and nachos; these greasy, fried meals have little nutritional value and often, lots of saturated and trans fats. Stick to fresh protein-based apps like shrimp cocktail and chicken kebabs, and get your vegetable fix with a side salad or soup. Bonus: research has shown that broth-based soups help diners to consume fewer calories later in the meal.

11. Eat like a kid. Because of their smaller size, kids naturally eat fewer calories than adults. So what’s usually a small meal for them can actually be a healthy snack for you: since their meals are based off of whole, nutritious foods, you can avoid typical snacks that offer only refined carbohydrates and sugar, like chips, cookies, and snack bars. The common elementary school lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be transformed into a satisfying and energizing midday snack; make it healthier by using whole grain bread and bananas instead of jelly. Some other snacks ideas to borrow: cheese cubes, celery sticks and almond butter, and turkey-and-lettuce roll-ups. Take another cue from the kids: eat only when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full!

12. Ask for the sauce on the side. If the sauce is cream, oil, cheese, or otherwise fat-based, ask for it on the side. This trick will work with pretty much any dish except pasta (pasta dishes like Fettuccine Alfredo depend on their sauce for flavor and texture, and asking for sauce on the side is essentially like asking for a clump of sticky noodles). But for other dishes – salads, chicken, steak, fish, burgers, tacos – the lack of a sauce or dressing doesn’t compromise the meal. For items like burgers and tacos, where the fatty sauce (mayonnaise, aioli, or crema) is usually spread on the bun or tortilla before it’s assembled, simply forgo it and use ketchup, mustard, salsa, and guacamole for flavoring. If it’s absolutely necessary, spread on a thin layer yourself. For salads, chicken, steak, and fish dishes, asking for sauce or dressing on the side allows you to control exactly how much of it you use. Salads are often too overdressed and oily anyway; chicken and steak are flavorful enough without a fatty sauce; and fish is too delicate in taste to be slathered in sauce to the point of unrecognizability.

13. Pick eggs over a bagel. Americans grow up eating cereal for breakfast; come adulthood, we usually switch to grab-and-go options like bagels, pastries, or bars that are equally carb-ridden. And that’s if we even eat breakfast at all! A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared men who ate a breakfast of two eggs and men who ate equally-caloric breakfast of a bagel. Researchers observed that the egg-eaters consumed 112 fewer calories at a lunch buffet three hours after breakfast and 400 fewer calories in the 24 hours following breakfast. Moreover, men who ate the bagel breakfast showed significantly elevated levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger. If you’re not a fan of eggs, try eating your cereal with Greek protein, which has double the protein of plain varieties, or make a breakfast sandwich with smoked salmon and cream cheese or lean meat and cheese. Nuts and seeds also add a significant protein source.

14. Use a food scale to see how much you’re really eating. Because of our fast food culture of supersizing, many Americans don’t know what an actual portion should look like. Even the food depictions in the painting Last Supper suffer from portion distortion: a researcher found that renditions of the painting showed 23% bigger bread loaves and 65% larger plates. To get reacquainted with correct portion sizes, measure out all the food you eat for a day. This will give you an idea of what you’re currently eating as well as show you what portions you should be eating. As a simple guide, meat and fish portions should be about the size of the palm of your hand; one serving of cheese is the size of three dominoes; a serving of vegetables is the size of a baseball; a piece of bread or bagel should resemble the size of a hockey puck; and cooked rice or pasta should be the size of a scoop of ice cream. By editing your current conceptions of portion sizes, you’ll get a better understanding of which foods you should be eating more of – and which foods you should be eating less of.

Keep reading for week three!


The Healthiest Foods You’ve Never Heard Of

A couple of years ago, the term “superfood” was coined when fourteen foods – to name a few, blueberries, oats, salmon, walnuts, and spinach – were crowned as the most nutritious, antioxidant-packed, disease-fighting foods. Since then, other foods have made headlines for their same disease-fighting properties. Açai berry was the new blueberry and quinoa replaced oats. More foods – including herbs, spices, and teas – were added to the list, as well as less common and more tropical and ethnic foods such as kimchi, mangosteen, and turmeric. Today, here are six domestic and international foods – that you’ve probably never heard of – that stand up to these dated superfoods.

Kohlrabi is the much-forgotten about younger brother in the brassica family, which also houses cabbage, kale, broccoli, collard greens and brussels sprouts. It’s characteristics are a blend of the former vegetables; its bulb looks and tastes like a small cabbage or large brussels sprout, while its green, leafy stems resemble collard greens and taste similar to broccoli. This tuber is incredibly high in fiber and vitamin C: per cup, it serves 4.9 gram of fiber and more than 100% of the RDA for vitamin C with 84 mg. It’s also high in cancer-fighting glucosinolates, organic sulfur-containing compounds that inhibit malignant cell and tumor growth. Try roasting kohlrabi with garlic and olive oil and serving it with Romesco sauce for a simple side dish, or enjoy its dark greens wilted in a pasta dish.

Aronia Berry
The Aronia berry, also called a chokeberry, are North America’s answer to Brazil’s açai berry and the Himalaya’s goji berry. Aronia berries may rank as the highest fruit on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, giving them incredibly potent antioxidant powers. Aronia berries get their dark purple (almost black) hues from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protects against inflammation, age-related neurological deficits, and cardiovascular disease. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have also indicated that Aronia berries are effective aids to weight maintenance by preventing the storage of dangerous fat around the abdomen. Aronia berries are known for their tart taste (hence the name chokeberry), but you can still enjoy them sprinkled on yogurt, cereal, or in pancakes for a zesty kick. To tone down their tartness, mix them up into smoothies, mixed berry jams and compotes, or sip on some chokeberry-spiked green tea.

Hemp Seed
You can do a lot more with this seed than sport homemade hemp necklaces. Hemp seeds, which actually are not seeds, but fruit, contain all nine essential amino acids, making them an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Omnivores may want to jump on the bandwagon too, because hemp seeds go where beef and chicken can’t: they contain both healthy fatty acids and fiber, making them quite a multitasking food. Hemp seeds naturally have the optimum 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, a balance that is important to maintain cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory health (the average American diet delivers more than ten times the recommended amount of omega-6 fatty acids ). Rounding out hemp seed’s trifecta of macronutrients, they contain fibers and plant sterols that aid digestion decrease your risk of colon and prostate cancer. Though similar to flaxseed oil and chia seeds, hemp seed oil distinguishes itself as one of the only sources of gamma linoleic acid. GLA is an anti-inflammatory fatty acid that supports a healthy metabolism and facilitates fat burning, improves cholesterol, and can help in balancing hormones. Hemp seeds and oil have a mild nutty flavor and can be added to smoothies, baked goods, soups, salads, and oatmeal without overpowering their tastes. Store your hemp seeds in the refrigerator to prevent the breakdown of omega-3 fatty acids from heat and oxygen.

Nori and Kelp
You’re probably already eating one of these sea vegetables: nori is the dark green wrapping around the sushi you order. These foods, both a type of seaweed, are relatively new in the West, but they’ve been enjoyed and eaten in the East for thousands of years. Sea vegetables were held with such regard in Hawaii that only royalty could keep gardens with sea vegetables. These small but mighty vegetables are remarkable for their high mineral content. In fact, 40% of nori’s weight comes from minerals alone, running the gamut from vitamin A to zinc. Sea vegetables are the richest source of iodine, a mineral that is necessary for thyroid efficiency and also plays a role in depression, obesity, and fatigue. Nori and kelp also contain vanadium, a mineral that may help control diabetes and insulin sensitivity by converting blood sugars to storeable starches and preventing the overproduction of glucose. Further distinguishing themselves from other vegetables, nori and kelp contain fucoidans, branched and sulfated polysaccharides. This slimy component of seaweed has multiple benefits: they enhance immunity by increasing natural killer cell activity and the activation of macrophage, B-cells, and T-cells; they act as an anti-inflammatory by blocking inflammatory pathways; and they increase cardiovascular health by decreasing unwanted clotting behavior. Nori and kelp are popular in Japanese restaurants in sushi, salads, soups and tofu dishes. In your own kitchen, try sprinkling crumbled nori on top of rice and other grains. Kelp is a great natural thickener and can be added to soups, stews, and bean dishes for a an extra hearty kick.

Coffee Berry
You may already have heard about coffee berry as a potent ingredient in anti-aging and depigmenting skincare products. It’s a good thing that these same antioxidants are just as beneficial when ingested instead of being slathered on, because one gram of coffee berry is said to have the same antioxidant effects as a pound and a half of blueberries! Because coffee berry is grown at high-altitude areas near the equator, it gets a lot of sun exposure. The protect itself from damaging rays and oxidative stress, the fruit synthesizes antioxidants called phenolic acids – most notably, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and p-coumaric acid. Phenolic acids, along with bioflavonoids called anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, can protect our skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, too: they react with damaging free radicals to protect the skin’s tone and elasticity. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can aid in the treatment of acne, eczema, and dermatitis. Coffee berry is a virtuous fruit, because once inside your body, it helps to preserve other antioxidants already chipping away at oxidative stress, thus improving cardiovascular and neurological health. In the lab, coffee berry extract, which is rich in chlorogenic acid, has been shown to fight diabetes and metabolic disorders by maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and may help in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. You can get some of these benefits by sipping a cup of coffee every day, but you’ll get more bang for your buck with coffee berry teas and extracts.

Purslane is regarded as a weed in the U.S., yet across Asia and Europe it’s grown as a staple leafy green vegetable. Perhaps it’s time that we start using it in our dishes too, because this weed packs more of a nutritional punch than several other more popular superfoods: it contains more vitamin C than cabbage; more vitamin A than beets; and more iron and calcium than swiss chard. Like these superfoods, it contains plenty of free radical-scavenging antioxidants, and its vitamins A, C, and E help enhance skin health, immunity, and essential metabolic processes. Like the superfood spinach, purslane also contains alpha linolenic acid, making it a great source of omega-3 fatty acids for vegetarians. But with 8.5 mg of ALAs per gram, it contains five times the amount found in spinach, making it the richest source of ALAs found in a green vegetable. Alpha linolenic acid is a precursor to DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that contributes to cardiovascular health by regulating blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol. Purslane is the eighth most commonly distributed plant in the world, so this supercrop should be popping up in groceries everywhere. Purslane has a lemony taste that is more mild than spinach and arugula. Use it as a salad base or for garnish in meat, pasta, and soup dishes.

Eat Your Jack-O-Lantern

…And More Recipes Using Fresh Fall Produce

Today is the first day of October, and here in Boulder, we’re teetering on the edge of Fall, going from a cloudless 85-degree day to a crisp 62-degree one…back to 83 degrees the next. To celebrate Fall, enjoy the new seasonal produce popping up and recipes to use each.

Autumn brings more than orange and yellow leaves, crisp air, and football season. Shifting from the bright, tropical fruits and vegetables of summer – berries, mango, peppers, arugula, tomatoes – Fall brings its own bounty of seasonal produce. Eating seasonal has advantages beyond just nutrition: because your fruits and vegetables don’t have to cross hemispheres to get to you, it’s more environmentally sustainable, fresh, and affordable. And because of the shorter travel time, seasonal produce has more nutrients (a fruit or vegetable’s nutrients start to degrade the moment it’s picked) and tastes better. To enjoy health benefits and fresh tastes at their prime, include these Fall fruits and vegetables in your meal plans.

If you’re missing your summer glow, add some pumpkin to your diet. Recent research found that eating vegetables rich in carotenoids – the antioxidant that gives carrots, peppers, and sweet potatoes their red and orange colors – gives your skin a healthy golden glow that is actually found more attractive than sun-tanned skin. In addition to being stored under the fat in our skin, carotenoids are secreted through the skin and then reabsorbed, giving some healthy color to your face. Pumpkins are also a great belly-flattening food: they are high in fiber, which satiates hunger and balances blood sugar levels, and potassium, the bloat-combating mineral that counterbalances the water-retaining effects of sodium. Pumpkin can be replaced anywhere butternut squash is used, so try it in soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Pumpkin puree can be used as the main ingredient or as a moisture-adding sidekick in breads, muffins, and cookies. I modified this recipe by using all whole wheat flour; adding a little more pumpkin, as well as ground flaxseed and chia seeds; reducing the sugar; and adding tons of spice.

Pumpkin Yeast Bread

Adapted from here
¼ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
⅓ cup warm milk
1 egg, beaten
¾ – 1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 – 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 T ground flaxseed
1 T chia seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground gloves, ginger, cardamom, allspice

In a large bowl, add warm water to yeast; let sit for 5 minutes. Add all ingredients – but only 2 cups of flour – to yeast mixture; beat for 2 minutes. Add remaining flour until dough forms a stiff ball. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Let dough rise in an oiled, covered bowl for 1 hour, until doubled.

Knead dough again. Form into a log that will fit in a greased bread pan; let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 375 F for about 27 minutes; bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Fennel is used most often in Italian cuisines and is known for its mildly sweet, crunchy taste with notes of licorice. Composed of a bulb, stalks, seeds, and fronds, it can be eaten raw or cooked. Fennel is rich in the flavonoids quercetin, rutin, and anethole. Quercetin can help treat asthma and allergies by blocking histamine release, and it can also protect against macular degeneration, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal disorders. But it might show the most promise in the gym: a study from the University of South Carolina compared two groups of cyclists, one of which had consumed a quercetin-enhanced drink. The group that had ingested quercetin increased their ride time until fatigue by 13.2% and increased their VO2 max by 3.9%. Further enhancing fennel’s health benefits is anethole, a recently investigated antioxidant that protects against cancer by shutting down tumor-propagating signals called tumor necrosis factor-mediated signaling. Next time you’re making tomato sauce, saute fennel along with onions and garlic to bring an anise note to your dish. Fennel also pairs well with citrus, so try topping grilled salmon with fennel and lemon slices or making a simple salad of sliced fennel and citrus segments.

Fennel, Citrus, and Olive Salad
Thinly sliced fennel bulb
Grapefruit and orange segments; reserve juices
Sliced Kalamata olives
Olive oil
Fresh basil
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

Separate grapefruits and orange segments over a bowl, collecting their juices at the bottom. Add fennel and olives; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh basil.

Apples might be the most quintessential autumn fruit, but their versatility, affordability, and ease of preparation gives them a spot on this list. They’re so mainstream that they’re often overlooked by flashier superfruits like goji berries and dragonfruit, but apples have plenty of health benefits of their own. Recent research has shown that apples’ main defense against sun damage is a army of polyphenols, including quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and epicatechin. These polyphenols, which mainly live in the skin of the apple, can absorb damaging UVB rays, thereby protecting fragile photosynthetic receptors in the skin. These antioxidants transfer their protective properties to us when ingested: apples help improve cardiovascular health, help lower asthma risk, and may help fend off lung, breast, liver, and colon cancers. Apples can also help maintain stable blood sugar levels by reducing the rate of glucose absorption, stimulating the pancreas to pump out more insulin, and facilitating sugar uptake by our cells. There are hundreds of types of apples, ranging from the sweet and crisp varieties of Gala, Fuji, and Honeycrisp to the tart tastes of Granny Smith and McIntosh. In general, sweeter apples fare better eaten raw, added to salads, or pared with cheese; try Crispin, Fuji, Gala, and Pink Lady. Lower sugar varieties, like Braeburn, Granny Smith, and Red Rome are best used in cooking and baking.

Kale Salad with Apples and Walnuts
1 bunch kale, stems removed, cut into strips
2 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
Cherry Tomatoes
Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Agave Nectar
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

Massage kale strips with olive oil; this softens the tough pieces and tempers kale’s bitter taste. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, agave nectar, and salt and pepper to taste; toss. Add apple slices and cherry tomatoes; sprinkle with walnuts.

Beets get their vibrant colors from antioxidants called betalains; purple and dark red beets contain betacyanin, and yellow and orange beets are colored with betaxanthins. These pigments demonstrate both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory behavior by infiltrating damaged cells and nursing them back to good health. If you’re looking to start eating more healthfully and clean, beets are a great place to start. Betalains support detoxification processes by triggering an enzyme that regulates toxin neutralization and excretion and enhancing liver function. Healthy liver function promotes the efficient breakdown of fat, improving weight loss efforts and eradicating fatigue. Beets can be eaten fresh, steamed, roasted, or pickled; avoid boiling them as their nutrients are quickly lost in water. Raw beets have have a taste and texture similar to carrots; cooking them softens them and brings out their mildly sweet flavor.

Citrus Beet Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts
1 bunch beets, scrubbed and roasted
2 large blood oranges, cut into segments
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Shallot, chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground black peppers
Toasted hazelnuts

To make dressing, combine olive oil, sherry vinegar, juice from blood oranges, and shallot. Toss arugula and beets, separately, with vinaigrette. Top arugula with beets, blood orange segments. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts, salt and black pepper.

If you want to add some tang and protein to this recipe, add crumbled goat cheese or chèvre.

Figs are a recent addition to trendy foods – paired with expensive prosciutto and French cheeses, they’ve made their way into the foodie world – but they were esteemed by European cultures long before their current popularity. In Greece, there were laws prohibiting the export of the best figs, and Egyptian cultures intombed their kings next to offerings of baskets filled with figs. As figs spread around the world, so did their health benefits: they’re one of the best plant sources of bone-strengthening calcium and their high levels of potassium help control blood pressure and bloating. Figs contain more hunger-quashing fiber than any other fruit, fresh or dried, which contributes to balanced blood sugar and and a satiated appetite. Fiber has also been shown to prevent adult-onset diabetes by slowing the digestion and absorption of sugars. Studies even show that diabetic patients who take fig leaf extract with their breakfast require less insulin in their daily injections, providing a natural aid for diabetes. Figs are a great snack; eat them dried with nuts, or pair the fresh ones with yogurt. For a quick but fancy appetizer, throw them on a platter and let their honeyed taste shine with salty and savory accompaniments.

Fig, Cheese, Prosciutto, and Nut Platter
Figs, cut in half
Assortment of cheeses: goat, brie, parmesan
Walnuts and almonds
Arugula and mizuna
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Arrange the above ingredients on a platter; allow guests to prepare individual crostinis with the ingredients. Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Don’t Forget Your Whites!

For years, nutritionists have touted the benefits of eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, citing the plants’ bright, vibrant colors for their nutrients and antioxidant power. Most often, the darker the hue, the more nutrients the fruit or vegetable has to offer. Blueberries, for example, owe their deep color to anthocyanins, a class of phytonutrients that offer protection against a wide range of diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Carrots, mangoes, and sweet potatoes are orange and yellow because they contain beta carotene, an antioxidant that enhances the immune system and protects against cardiovascular diseases. It’s so important to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables because each offers a unique set of nutrients and antioxidants that you may otherwise not get if you stick to a monochromatic diet. So what about these tasty plants – onions, garlic, banana, jicama, and mushrooms – that are colorless? Is a bright orange carrot stick more nutritious than a bland, white jicama stick? It turns out, white fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as their more colorful counterparts, offering unique nutrients and antioxidants to boot.

Onions, a member of the Allium family (which also includes garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives), owe their pungent odor to their sulfur-containing compounds. These compounds offer cardiovascular protection by acting as anti-clotting agents in the blood,  as well as lowering blood levels of cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Onions are also a top-10 source of quercetin, a flavonoid that is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Quercetin also has anti-cancer benefits; in one study, people with a diet rich in onions and garlic have a 20-fold lower cancer risk than those who do not consume the potent bulb. Onions impart huge flavor for very little calories: add chopped onions to salads and sauces or caramelize them and stuff into paninis, chilis, soups, burgers, or eggs.

Garlic contains the same sulfur-containing compounds as onions, so it offers similar cardiovacular protection. More specifically, garlic boosts our own natural supply of hydrogen sulfide, a compound that increases blood flow and signals blood vessels to relax – thereby helping to decrease blood pressure. Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory effects as well, which may play a role in obesity. Obesity is believed to be a disease caused by chronic, low level inflammation; a sulfur compound in garlic appears to decrease the conversion of preadipocytes into adipocytes (fat cells). The odoriferous bulb also has antibacterial and antiviral properties; in fact, in World War I and II, garlic was used as an antiseptic to prevent gangrene among injured soldiers! For a nutrition boost, chop or crush a bulb and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to increase the formation of sulfur-containing compounds.

Bananas are one of nature’s easiest snacks, offering prepackaged nutrition anywhere, anytime. Bananas are touted for their high potassium content, a mineral that aids in muscle and nerve function and contributes to bone health by minimizing the excretion of calcium through the kidneys. Bananas are good for your mind, too: each banana contains about 10.6 mg of tryptophan, an amino acid that encourages serotonin production. Serotonin has a calming effect on the brain and can act as a mild sedative, making it a great pre-bedtime snack. Bananas also contain resistant starch, a type of fiber also found in beans, potatoes, and whole grains, that promotes fullness and satiety and increases fat burning. This makes bananas a great post-workout snack as well; the creamy fruits refuel and replenish important vitamins and minerals lost during exercise.

Jicama, also known as the Mexican potato, is a root vegetable often used in Central American cooking. It is sweet but mild with a crisp, refreshing bite. Composed of mostly carbohydrates and water, it is a good source of inulin, a type of dietary fiber that has system-wide benefits: it enhances calcium absorption for better bone health, decreases LDL cholesterol, and even acts as a prebiotic, helping the good bacteria in your intestines to function more efficiently. Jicama is heart-healthy: it contains the powerhouse trifecta of beta-carotene, folic acid, and vitamin C, three nutrients that, together, decrease blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that may negatively affect cellular metabolism and damage blood vessels. Enjoy the crisp vegetable raw, like carrot sticks or in salads, or add to stir-fries, sautes and soups for a high-fiber, healthy crunch.

Mushrooms have been held in high regard throughout history: in Rome, they were seen as a gift from God and were only eaten during celebrations; the Chinese prized them as as medicinal herbs; and the Japanese still use them to treat colds and the flu. Science confirms mushrooms as immune-boosting plants. Mushrooms beneficially shift the activity of monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells, each a type of white blood cell, either shutting off activity when they should be inactive and triggering activity when they are needed. High in niacin, copper, potassium, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants. For vegetarians, mushrooms are an especially crucial dietary component: they have high protein levels and are one of the richest naturally-occurring non-animal source of vitamin D. In addition to soups, salads, and sandwiches, their earthy, robust flavor lends well as a substitute in burgers and meat sauces.

While you continue to eat your way through ROY G BIV, make sure to also mix in some white vegetables every now and then. These colorless plants are not as bland as they seem: in addition to adding new, unique tastes, they harbor health-boosting nutrients and antioxidants inside and out!