Why You Need Fruits & Vegetables: YELLOW and ORANGE edition

by Lauren M. Koch, RDN

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this week! Orange you glad we finally made it?! I know, I know, I’ll try to keep it professional and orderly over here.

But seriously, the orange and yellow plants make me HAPPY. They are so versatile in texture and flavor, that there is always something new to try. And they are packed full of nutrients that keep our skin, immune system, and cardiovascular system healthy, to name a few. You might find a few new favorites yourself!

Why Eat Yellow and Orange?

It would take me all day to type up the full range of nutrients in these plants, so I’ll stick with some of the most notable.

Carotenoids (specifically beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin), are readily found in yellow and orange plants. These compounds differ from the other carotenoids in that they can be converted by the human body to retinol (Vitamin A). They are potent antioxidants, and some observational studies have suggested that diets high in carotenoids may be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Hesperedin is a member of the flavonoid family. Flavonoids have been suggested to exert anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-thrombogenic, anti-diabetic, and neuroprotective qualities in the human body.

IMG_8495Curcumin is the main active component in the yellow spice turmeric, a spice derived from the rhizome of the Curcuma Longa plant. It has been used in both food preparation, and for medicinal purposes for centuries. Studies suggest curcumin may be an effective antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective substance.

Sources of Yellow and Orange

It is hard to miss the brilliant colors of this family. Though, sometimes brightly colored flesh can hide inside a tough skin, as in winter squash. So let’s check out where we can find these important nutrients.

Carotenoids are found in carrots, kale, sweet potato, and winter squash like pumpkin, acorn squash, and butternut squash.

Hesperedin is found primarily in citrus fruits, including grapefruit, oranges, lemon, and pummelo. But it can also be found in vegetables like yellow peppers, and broccoli.

Curcumin is found primarily in the spice turmeric. So just about any foods that contain this vibrant spice, as well as fresh turmeric, contain high levels of it.

Meal Ideas to Get your Yellow and Orange

Photo of tropical fruit parfaitsMaybe I’m in need of a good vacation, but all I wanted was a tropical fruit parfait this week. There was this one room service breakfast that hubby and I got hooked on during our honeymoon. Considering that was almost 10 years ago, it must have been a pretty memorable breakfast, huh? This lovely tropical parfait was my best shot at replicating it. Pineapple, banana, mango, oranges, and kiwi, sandwiched between layers of plain greek yogurt, and muesli. If only I had the ocean and the beach in my backyard, it would have been perfecto.

Other ways to get these nutrients in early? How about a smoothie with some frozen mango? It makes for such a smooth creamy consistency, you’ll want to use it every time. Or, toss some yellow veggies into an omelet, or egg cups.

IMG_8602 2For lunch, I needed to warm up. It’s finally feeling like fall here in the northeast! So I broke out the old crockpot (yay!) and made soup. I started out with a traditional butternut squash soup base and decided it needed a bit more yellow/orange included. So I added carrots, ginger, and yellow curry to liven it up. And seriously, WHAT could be easier than a crockpot meal? To top it off (and really, this last step was to make the kids happy) some homemade croutons made with a piece of sourdough bread that had been in my freezer for months. Luckily, stale bread makes the best croutons! Recipe to come shortly for this soup, I promise.

IMG_8599How about a tasty salad? Here I added tons of carrots, orange tomatoes, ginger, and turmeric to up the orange quotient in a classic tuna salad. Guess how many veggies I fit in that tuna alone? Almost an entire carrot!

For a snack, we had garlic hummus with lots of veggies! Carrots, yellow and orange peppers, and orange grape tomatoes. It truly is amazing how many vegetables I can get into the kids when I give them something to dip them in. Have you tried this?

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Photo courtesy of Janice Buckingham at dailyclove.com

And last, but NOT least, supper. I will admit that I was not able to make this one yet. But just as soon as I can get my hands on a jackfruit, I plan to. This recipe comes courtesy of my new favorite plant-based chef, Janice Buckingham over at dailyclove.com. Her vegan Jackfruit Bun with Brussel Sprout Slaw uses the increasingly popular jackfruit to make a meatless BBQ seasoned pulled pork-esque sandwich. And because it grows from the ground (and just so happens to be a lovely orange color), it’s packed with nutrition too. If you’ve never seen a jackfruit, I highly suggest you consult google to view some photos. Mother Nature really is a cool chick.

IMG_8649Other ways to integrate these colors into your meals? Try out my creamy cauliflower acorn mash next time you’re in need of a comforting (and healthy!) side dish. Watching those carbohydrates? Try using the mild spaghetti squash, or some veggies “zoodles” as a pasta replacement in your favorite Italian dishes. Pictured above are the butternut squash, sweet potato, and beet noodles I used to whip up a healthy 10-minute supper. For details, check out my Instagram or Facebook pages.

End Notes

Anyone who has been following along with my blog knows that I’m a little passionate about plants. For good reason! They are perfect vessels for all of the important fuel that our bodies need to run well. Take a page from my book, and just start adding them to your meals in ways you haven’t tried before. For more ideas, read my previous posts on the red, green, and purple/blue plant families. And make sure to check out Janice’s Instagram feed for more plant-based PRO taste goodness!

XOXO,

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