More fruits, veggies: Adding color to the menu can help improve your health

More fruits, veggies: Adding color to the menu can help improve your health

by Kathy Milley
DeCA Corporate Communications

FORT LEE, Va. – Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to overall health and wellness. While virtually all fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and low in fat, each color provides unique nutrients and phytonutrients that help lower the risk of chronic disease and inflammation.

“It is so important to add a variety of color to your meals to ensure a healthy eating pattern, “said DeCA’s Health and Wellness Program Manager Deborah Harris, MPH, RD, CDE (Masters of Public Health, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator). “Shop your commissary for a vast spectrum of colorful fruits and veggies, and aim for at least 8 servings daily – two servings at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two for snacks – to benefit from their health-promoting properties.  This may seem like a lot, but it truly isn’t.  Just make sure half your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables and you are almost there.”

Here are some attributes of produce colors frequently cited in studies:

Red: A good source of the antioxidant lycopene may lower the risk of some cancers.  Tomatoes, cherries, pomegranates, beets and watermelons are good sources.

Yellow / Orange: Rich in vitamin C and carotene may help with heart and vision health and may reduce the risk of some cancers. Examples include oranges, carrots, yellow apples, pears, lemons, butternut squash and corn.

Blue / Purple: Antioxidants that provide heart health benefits and may help to slow signs of aging, preserve memory function and reduce the risk of some cancers.  Foods rich in these properties include blackberries, plums, prunes, blueberries, grapes, eggplant and red cabbage

Green: Promotes stronger bones and teeth, supports eye health and the immune system and may lower the risk of cancer, high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL). Foods rich in these nutrients include broccoli, avocado, zucchini, celery, kiwi, cucumber, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens.

White: May reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and promotes healthy bones. Onions, mushrooms, garlic, cauliflower, white corn, turnips and white peaches are good sources.

“When shopping for produce, be cognizant of the health benefits of each color, filling your basket with your favorites, remembering that frozen and canned vegetables count too, “said Harris. “Then use the Nutrition Guide Program to find nutritious products in the center aisles to round out your menu. Look for items with the “Thumbs Up” icon which identifies products with the highest nutrition quality, free of empty calories from added sugar and unhealthy fat, and low in sodium. The payoff to your health and wellness will be significant.”  

Visit and click on the healthy living link for dietitian-approved recipes, tips and links to assist you in meeting your health and wellness goals, and for help with planning meals.


Note: To see a video related to fruits and vegetables in the commissary, press the “Ctrl” key and click on the photo or go to

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