We all want to live longer, healthier lives, and perhaps the solution can be found at the end of the rainbow. The phrase “eat the rainbow” has been coined to encourage the intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables. All produce is not created equal, and it requires a diverse diet to provide us with the nutrients we need to increase health and prevent disease.
Red fruits and vegetables are colored by the natural plant pigments lycopene and anthocyanin. Foods such as red bell peppers, cherries, rhubarb and beets are providing more than great flavor, as they contain vitamins A and C, manganese and fiber. The lycopene that comes from foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit has been linked to a decrease in some cancers and heart disease.
Squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches and cantaloupe are colored by carotenoids - a natural food pigment that has been shown to decrease risk of cancer and other diseases while boosting the immune system. These foods also contain large amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins like C, B6 and A. Vitamin A plays an important role in the health of skin, hair and eyes.
The pigment chlorophyll colors our favorite fruits and veggies green. Broccoli, asparagus, kiwi, artichokes and those green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and bok choy provide us with calcium, iron and lutein - an antioxidant that appears to play a substantial role in the health of our eyes.
Eggplant, blackberries, red onion and blueberries are colored by anthocyanins - antioxidants that improve the health of blood vessels, skin and the brain. Try a purple carrot or potato to reap some of these colorful benefits.
White fruits and vegetables such as bananas, cauliflower and parsnips look the way they do thanks to anthoxanthins. These foods provide vitamins C and K, folate, potassium and fiber. Onions and garlic contain allicin, a possible heart healthy and anti-bacterial compound.
Eating a rainbow of foods is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but it provides us with far reaching benefits. As we increase the diversity on our dinner plate with plant-based, colorful foods, it becomes easier to meet recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, while moving us closer to the healthy lifestyle we all seek.
Slow Cooker Greek
Chicken Pita Pockets
1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 pita pocket breads, cut in half
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tomato, sliced or diced
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 medium orange bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
1 medium yellow bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
1. In a slow cooker, combine the onion, garlic, chicken, lemon pepper, oregano and allspice. Turn the chicken so that it is coated with the seasonings. Cover and cook on low for five to six hours.
2. Remove the chicken and onions from the slow cooker with a slotted spoon. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cover the chicken and onion mixture and keep warm. Whisk the yogurt into remaining juices/seasonings in the slow cooker. Spoon some of the chicken and onions into each pocket of the pita bread. You can also place the chicken and onions on top of another round bread that can be rolled up, like this soft wrap bread or other flatbread. Top with tomato, cucumber and pepper strips. Drizzle warm yogurt sauce on top and serve immediately.
Recipe adapted slightly from Melskitchencafe.com