I remember when I was child one of my favorite breakfast cereals was Lucky Charms. Oh the colors of the rainbow! I’d pick out all of the sugary marshmallow pieces from the box and leave most of the cereal grains untouched. I would get in trouble every time my Mom would find a box completely void of marshmallows but left with a bunch of plain grains!
Well, I’ve come a long way since those days, and I still do “eat the rainbow” but in a very different way! Now, my “rainbow” is far from Lucky Charms, I fill my plate with bright fruits, vegetables, and foods that pack a nutritional punch. I actually don’t feel my meal is complete, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, unless it has at least 2 “colorful foods”.
So what gives fruits and vegetables their bright and beautiful hues? Carotenoids! Carote-whats?!
Carotenoids are pigments found naturally in plant-based foods. When consumed the body turns carotenoids into vitamins, and they are also powerful antioxidants that help fight against diseases.
Here is a list of my 7 favorite carotenoid-rich foods that have many other fantastic nutritional qualities too:
Berries – Full of fiber, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory nutrients, berries make their way into my every day in smoothies, on top of salads, or just on their own by the handful.
Oranges – Loaded with vitamin C, these juicy fruits are a favorite of mine to enjoy in smoothies or peeled and eaten as a quick pre-workout fuel.
Avocados - Creamy, dreamy, and filled to the brim with healthy essential fats, avocados make the perfect addition to any salad, smoothie, or even dessert … or in my favorite way, as a mayonnaise substitute mixed with tuna. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention guacamole!
Beets – I’m Ukrainian so it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t love beets, particularly in homemade Borscht! But, soup aside, I love beets steamed and served with a lean protein and some healthy complex carbohydrates for dinner. Beets are ripe with nutrients including folate, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Cherry Tomatoes – Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins, these little juicy bites are full of them, including E, C, and K. Tomatoes are the perfect pop of color to add to any savory dish, and my favorite way to enjoy them is combined with a little basil and balsamic vinegar. Delicious!
Swiss Chard – These bright leafy greens provide tons of Vitamin A and taste amazing in the place of romaine lettuce greens for healthy lettuce wraps. In my opinion, the richer color in the green leaves, the better.
Sweet Potatoes – Last but definitely not least, my all time favorite carbohydrate of choice! These tasty taters are loaded with fiber and vitamins, and are incredibly versatile. They can be enjoyed in smoothies (yep!), on salads, in stews or chili, in dessert (for real!), or just roasted on their own and seasoned with a little sea salt – delicious!
I hope I’ve inspired you to add a little more color to your day and really amp up the nutritional value of your diet.