As we head into the dark, cold days of winter, add a splash of color to your meals.
Colorful fruits and vegetables can not only cheer you up but also can help you reduce your risk for certain cancers and other diseases.
“You don’t need to be a food chemist to know how to eat healthy,” said Karla Arrigoni, a registered dietitian at Marshfield Clinic Rice Lake Center. “Just eat a variety of colorful foods like apples, peppers of various colors and green vegetables that contain phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals are found in plant-based foods. They’re not considered essential nutrients for life, but have health benefits.
Some phytochemicals, more commonly known as antioxidants, increase the tendency of cancer cells to self-destruct. Other phytochemicals increase production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens before they have a chance to damage DNA.
Fresh phytochemicals are best
One thing to keep in mind about phytochemicals is that they do not respond well to processing and bottling.
“Companies have tried to isolate phytochemicals and put them in a pill, but they have never been proven to fight cancer in this form,” Arrigoni said. “You don’t get the benefit that you do from eating whole foods. They need to be in the form nature intended in order for them to be beneficial for us.”
You can find most of these phyto-filled foods year-round in your store’s produce section. It’s easiest to get fresh foods in season at farmers markets, and the fresher they are the more nutritious
Try this “colorful” recipe for black bean and butternut squash chili. Enjoy!
- Prep time: 20 minutes
- Cook time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
- Servings: 8
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
- 4 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 14.5-oz. cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 4 cups butternut squash (about 2 lb.), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Salt and pepper
Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and jalapeños; sauté until tender, about 3 minutes.
Transfer pepper mixture to slow cooker. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Arrange squash on top. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
Season chili with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, salsa and other accompaniments, if desired.
Each serving contains about 276 calories; 8 g total fat; 50 g carbohydrates; 16 g fiber; 0 mg cholesterol; 1190 mg sodium.