We already know that the bright hues of many foods—red, blue and purple berries, green leafy vegetables and deep-toned roots among them—promise good eating with rich flavors.
Increasingly, we’re learning that these foods also bring a wealth of nutritional benefits, their colors signaling the presence of phytonutrients that include vitamins, fiber, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Here are four colorful, health-boosting foods to include in your diet:
Beets—including the candy-striped Chioggia variety—are bursting with healthy minerals, vitamins and other nutrients.
- Fresh beets can be roasted, steamed or baked (rub the skins off after cooking, not before).
- Sauté or braise the deep green leaves and enjoy them like spinach.
- Powdered beets, available from spice shops, make a natural food coloring with a hint of sweetness: To make pink whipped cream, add about 1 teaspoon of powdered beets per pint of heavy cream and whip.
While kale has been getting all the attention lately, crunchy escarole—also known as endive, and not always of the blanched Belgian or frisée varieties—provides plenty of vitamins, fiber and minerals including iron and potassium.
- Toss the freshest young leaves into salads, or braise them lightly to accompany a main dish.
- Chop and sauté mature leaves with oil and garlic.
- Pair escarole with beans in hearty soups and stews.
Studies indicate that this relative of ginger helps fight inflammation, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Adding it to your diet is “one of the best moves toward optimal health you can make,” says Dr. Andrew Weil in “Three Reasons to Eat Turmeric” (drweil.com).
- Powdered turmeric lends its rich golden hue to curries, mustards and many ethnic foods.
- A half-teaspoon to a teaspoon of turmeric will flavor and color an entire dish: Try it in eggs, chicken stir-fries, rice or lentil recipes. The Kitchn has more recipes at http://www.thekitchn.com/7-ways-to-eat-drink-turmeric-198696
- It works best with pepper and also partners well with cumin and ginger, which bring their own advantages: Cumin provides iron, calcium, vitamin B1 and other nutrients, while ginger has a long history of alleviating nausea and migraines.
Like other red plant foods, tangy hibiscus flowers contain anthocyanins, which have antioxidant properties. Some studies have also explored their use in maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Jamaicans make a hibiscus punch called “sorrel,” while in Mexico dried hibiscus is made into a drink called “jamaica.”
- Make your own thirst-quenching cooler with a handful of dried hibiscus calyces in a couple of quarts of water, brought to a boil and simmered for a few minutes, then left to stand overnight with a few slices of fresh ginger and orange. Strain, sweeten, chill and enjoy, with or without sparkling wine or seltzer.
- If you can’t find dried hibiscus in a store, look in the tea section for hibiscus-rich herbal blends like Red Zinger.
Make John Wm. Macy’s CheeseSticks, CheeseCrisps and SweetSticks a part of your healthy diet: They’re made with real cheese and sourdough with selected spices. You can find all of their ingredients and nutritional information at our Nutritional Facts page: cheesesticks.com/nutritional-facts.