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Plant and eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits


Colorful array of fruits and vegetablesPlanting season is right around the corner, and it’s a great time to plan for eating a rainbow.


“Vegetables and fruits in a rainbow of colors give the nutrients needed for good health,” says Janet Hackert, regional nutrition and health education specialist for University of Missouri Extension.


“Red strawberries will all too soon be blooming and growing,” Hackert says. Before we know it, raspberries, tomatoes and watermelons will sprout. All of these provide vitamin C. Tomatoes have the added boost of lycopene, which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, she says.


Vitamin C helps heal cuts, fight infection, and keep teeth and gums healthy. It also helps our bodies absorb iron better, especially the iron found in other plant sources, like spinach and beans. A half cup of strawberries contains 70 percent of the vitamin C many Americans need in a day, Hackert says, and a quarter of a cantaloupe contains 93 percent. “Also rich in vitamin C are spinach, potatoes, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi.”


Orange, yellow and dark green vegetables and fruits are likely to be rich in vitamin A. “Vitamin A is significant in eye health, especially for helping eyes adjust to the dark,” she says. Vitamin A also helps keep hair and skin looking healthy and helps protect against infection. “A small handful of baby carrots or a half cup of carrot sticks has 383 percent of the amount of vitamin A that most Americans need in a day!”


To get more vitamin A in your diet, be sure to include sweet potatoes, pumpkins, yellow squashes, spinach, broccoli and other dark green vegetables, like collard greens and kale, when making your planting decisions or grocery list. These dark green options also offer vitamin K, potassium, lutein and zeaxanthin. Potassium helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and aids in muscle contraction. Lutein and zeaxanthin contribute to healthy eyesight.


Blue blueberries provide their own set of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K, potassium and a wealth of antioxidants that help prevent certain cancers, eye diseases and varicose veins, and may help with diabetes, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease.


Purple grapes are one purple option, but it is not the only one. “There are purple varieties of tomatoes, carrots and cabbage, to name just a few,” Hackert says.


Add some or all of these tasty and nutritious options to your rainbow garden or on your plate today.


The MU Extension publication “Vegetable Planting Calendar” (G6201) explains when and how densely to plant vegetables.


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Last update: Monday, March 27, 2017