A Colorful Plate Can Help You Live Longer

At the Farmer's Market in Evansville, you may see produce, but a registered dietitian sees powerful disease-fighters.

Summer vegetables like squash and zucchini contain antioxidants, according to dietitian Carol Ackerman. "Antioxidants are vitamins E, C and A and selenium. They go to battle against the free radicals that cause cellular damage in our bodies."

And they contain something called phytochemicals. They're chemical substances that give the plant color, flavor and odor that may be part of its natural defense against insects or fungi. And they ward off disease for us too. Some of them better than others. The dietitian calls these five superstars....peas, lima beans, brussel sprouts, spinach and at the top, broccoli, the crown jewel of nutrition. "We can't say enough good things about broccoli, jammed packed with vitamin A, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals."

As for fruit, Ackerman says, "Cantaloupes are at the top of the list. It is a superstar fruit. It is extremely high in vitamin A, potassium and of course the carotenoids because it's an orange fruit." What gives tomatoes their bright red pigment is something called lycopene that's been shown to ward off cancer, especially lung cancer, a top killer in this area.

The goal now is five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, nine if you're really trying to eat healthy. Ackerman says, getting that many is not as hard as you think. "It's not so much a matter of servings but to focus on proportion and to have fruits and vegetables take the center of the plate and the goal might be to have them take up at least one half our dinner plates." An easy rule to live by... the more colorful your dinner plate, the better.

To take a closer look at vitamins, minerals and fiber in summertime fruits and vegetables, you can attend a free seminar at St Mary's Senior Health Center next Wednesday at one o'clock. Reservations are required, call 485-5850 for reservations.