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Follow the Rainbow

Article published Oct 28, 2010 Want health? Follow the rainbow

What is the connection between you, your garden and the increasing health-insurance costs? We know that heart disease, diabetes, cancer and lung disease are the leading causes of death and prolonged disability. Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average cost for people with one chronic disease (including obesity) is 2½ times greater than for people with no chronic conditions?
As a nation, more than 75 percent of our health-care spending goes for people with chronic conditions (more than $7,000 per person). When you realize lifestyle choices account for 51 percent of health status and only 20 percent comes from genetics, you realize you determine your own path despite family history. In Colorado, more than 80 percent of adults are physically active with less than 20 percent being obese. But only one-fourth consume the minimum daily amount of five servings of fruits and vegetables. Gardeners have been found to consume an additional 1.4 servings per day and are four times more likely to meet the five-a-day recommendation. And what about our youth? Half of food decisions are made by the children in the household, resulting in less than half of children ages 1 to 14 eating fruit twice a day and only one of 10 children eating three or more vegetable servings a day. Less than 20 percent participated in vigorous physical activity three of the last seven days. Is it because we don’t think of it? That’s not good enough when you realize with more exposure and familiarity, the greater the intake.
Think of the colors of a rainbow. How many servings a week would you say touch your plate from the rainbow of red, orange/yellow, white, green or purple groups? This becomes very important for each group to provide its own charm and purpose. Red produce contains natural pigments called lycopene and anthrocyanin to help reduce risk of several types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer, as powerful antioxidants protect cells and heart from damage. This would include foods such as pomegranates, cherries, red cabbage, grapes and beets, to name a few. Orange or yellow produce items contain the pigment carotenoid to help reduce risk of cancer and heart disease and enhance the immune system and maintain healthy mucous membranes. One study found that people who ate a diet high in carotenoid-rich vegetables were 43 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and 36 percent less likely of a heart attack and death than counterparts who shunned vegetables. At this time of year, the squash (including pumpkin) is everywhere! Sweet potatoes, carrots, mangos, cantaloupe and sweet bell peppers are plentiful. Green: What about the chlorophyll that we find in green produce? This contains chemicals such as lutein, B vitamins and indoles. We usually have no problem with this group because we frequently prefer and enjoy the choices in the raw form. Purple and white and produce is colored by pigments called anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant protecting cells from damage while reducing risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Blueberries have also been linked with improved memory function. Some forgotten purple options are eggplant, plums and prunes with the obvious grapes and berries. Jicama, mushrooms, potatoes and onions are common white choices. or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Sources for this story include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado Health Department and
Daily fruit and vegetable support: