Syracuse University Eats the Rainbow

carrotsAs humans, we tend to associate colors with our moods, feelings and smells. But did you know that colors are also associated with the nutrients that are in our everyday foods? Syracuse University is jumping on board with the “Healthy Monday” national initiative and spreading it around campus. This initiative encourages students to start their week off on the right foot, focusing on wellness and healthy eating. The Healthy Monday initiative is encouraging college students to eat more colorful produce. This academic year on campus, the Syracuse University food services will be dedicating each month to a different color. This month’s focus is on red food such as tomatoes, red apples, and red bell peppers. Handouts Informational will be distributed to students as a guide for adding more colorful foods to meals.

But what makes the color of a strawberry different from a blueberry? Phytochemicals! Very important in attacking the “bad” in our bodies, scientifically known as free radicals, phytochemicals can bind directly to cell walls, preventing infection by taking the place of toxins that would adhere to our cell walls. A perfect example would be the phytochemicals found specifically in bell peppers. These can interfere with DNA replication and stop DNA from multiplying in cancer cells.

Here is a break-down different colored phytochemicals and their health-benefits.

Red: Lycopene is the red pigment. This pigment can help prevent heart disease, and some types of cancer. Flavonoids are also a contributing red pigment that have anti-inflammatory responses.

Orange /Yellow: Both carotenoids and vitamin C are present in orange and yellow produce. Carotenoids are very beneficial for vision, and vitamin C is an important component in boosting the immune system.

Green: Lutein is the green pigment that is important to our eye health. It is found in our dark leafy green veggies, as well as avocado, pistachios and kiwi.

Blue/Purple: Anthocyanin is the blue pigment important in supporting blood pressure and reducing the risk of strokes or heart attacks. The darker the pigment, the higher the phytochemical concentration.

Phytochemicals are a very important component of nutrition. Syracuse, the land of Orange and Blue, is helping students become familiar with the idea of coloring their plates in the dining halls and using this knowledge as they continue on beyond college.

Photo Credit: Samantha Gitlin

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