Rainbow Eating--Orange/Yellow Foods - Julie's Healthy Living
 
Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural plant pigments called "carotenoids." Beta-carotene found in this color group is converted to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes. It is particularly helpful in warding off macular degeneration--an eye disorder common in older adults and seniors. Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and can improve immune system function. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C and folate, a B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.

Some examples of the orange/yellow group include:

* Apricots--One of the best sources of beta-carotene. One fresh apricot provides almost the daily recommended dose of vitamin A. Additionally, canned apricots are three times higher in the vitamin because the process of heating them breaks down the cell walls thereby releasing more beta-carotene. When using any canned fruit always check your ingredients and aim for ones with no added sugars. Apricots are also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

* Butternut squash--A rich source of beta carotene, along with vitamins C, B3 and B6, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. One of the easiest ways to bring out the flavor is to roast the squash. Simply cut into chunks, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper; place on foiled lined baking sheet on 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, turning them halfway through so they get crispy on all edges.

* Cantaloupe--Excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Good source of potassium and B vitamins, folate and fiber. While you can use cantaloupe in recipes and even freeze it into popsicles, my favorite way to have cantaloupe is cut in a bowl and served with a fork. Dig in. :)

* Carrots--High in beta-carotene. Roasted, raw, baked into dishes, puree them and add to homemade mac and cheese (the kids will never know). Touted for it's importance of eye health, the breakdown of carrots helps to improve your night vision.

* Grapefruit--Please see Red Foods under Pink Grapefruit for information. ALL grapefruit is a rich source of vitamin C.

* Lemons--A gem in the world of cooking. The juice of one lemon contains about one-third your daily need of vitamin C. Sprinkle a dash of lemon juice on apples, avocados or a bowl of fruit salad to prevent browning from oxidation while keeping your dishes pretty. Lemons can also be used as a household cleaner--just dip a cut lemon in salt for a gentle abrasive cleaner for your stainless steel pots and pans or sinks. Use lemon without salt on aluminum to brighten it up. Take used lemons to freshen up the garbage disposal.

* Mangoes--Beta-carotene (vitamin A when converted by the body) and vitamin C (starting to see a pattern in all the orange fruits/vegetables here). Mangoes are indigenous to India and found in subtropical and tropical regions. In some areas of the US they can be hard to come by at a fair price. However, when they are in season (spring is when they are at their peak) you can usually find them at a better price. They are great eaten alone, but I like to mix mine with avocado, tomato, jalapeno and some red peppers to serve with brown rice or quinoa.

* Nectarine/Peaches--I am grouping these together because nutritionally speaking they are virtually the same. The main difference here is the skin--nectarines are smooth while peaches are fuzzy. Excellent source of vitamin C. To ripen the fruit place in a paper bag (this also works for pears), loosely wrapped at room temperature. They will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Again, most fruits can be used in cooking, but I prefer to use peaches and/or nectarines as a grab and go snack.

* Oranges--NOW we come to yours truly favorite fruit on the planet. I am a lover of most fruits and vegetables (some more than others), but HANDS DOWN, the beautiful round juicy taste of sunshine has a warm place in my heart. I would be lying if I didn't say that citrus was one of my reasons for moving to Florida. Sadly, since the 2004 Hurricane Season when the area was hit with four of them (two on the west coast/two here on the east coast) our oranges have not been up to snuff. In addition, canker disease and most recently the freeze in January/February have really hurt the citrus industry and our Florida growers. Even with that I still can't get enough of oranges and if I have to I buy California navels to get me through the season. They aren't the same, but they'll suffice. And with so many different varieties in the orange family to choose from you can never get bored:
Clementines: the clementine is a seedless mandarin.
Kumquats: the kumquat is like a citrus fruit and has an edible skin. It is the most well known of the sort fortunella which is closely related to Citrus.
Mandarins: type of small orange with loose skin. The mandarin got its name because it was exploited by high-ranking government officials in China (mandarins).
Minneolas: are a crossing between a tangerine and a grapefruit commonly referred to as the Honeybell. They are in season for only six weeks (mid-January to end of February). While they are available from south of the border regions other times of the year they really are best bought and enjoyed during their peak season. While true of all fruit--it is especially so with these.
Oranges: There are different types of oranges: navel oranges, Valencia oranges and blood oranges are the most cultivated races.
Tangelos: a tangelo is a crossing between a tangerine, a grapefruit and an orange. A specific kind of tangelo is the Ugli which is described further on this page.
Satsuma: a very special seedling from Japan. Its skin is a bit tighter than the clementine and it doesn't have seeds as well.
Tangerines: a tangerine is an orange-red mandarin with a particular citrus taste. Can be peeled manually.

* Papayas--Quite simply the papaya from a nutritional standpoint is tops in the fruit world. Lower in calories and 33% higher in vitamin C than oranges. Higher in potassium and vitamin C than apples. Papayas are also a valuable source of vitamin E. Papaya seeds are edible and can give a peppery flavor to sauces and salad dressings.

* Pear--Good source of fiber, vitamin K (essential for blood clotting), vitamin C and copper. Allow pears to ripen on the counter at room temperature. To quicken the ripening process place in a paper bag. Once ripened pears are only good for a few days. Many different varieties include the Bosc, D'anjou, Bartlett. They are great to use for sauces, in salads and you can caramelize them for a sweet dessert. :)

* Yellow peppers--Can be used in any recipe that calls for peppers to add color and flavor to the meal. A rich source of potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin B6.

* Pineapple--Fresh or canned, raw or cooked, pineapple can be enjoyed so many ways. Fruit cocktail salad, diced on your pizza, used as a marinade, grilled on skewers with other fruit for a dessert treat. Pineapples are a great source of vitamin C.

* Pumpkin--One of the two vegetables I have tried time and time again and just can't get my taste buds to agree. I admit that I can't really share on how to use pumpkin in any form except for carving on Hallows Eve. Of course there is the ever popular pumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced chai lattes at Starbucks, but that is the vast extent of my knowledge on this bright orange gourd. What I can tell you is this: Pumpkin has more beta-carotene per half cup serving than any other orange food on this list.

* Rutabagas--Often overlooked in the Western world, the rutabaga is a delicious root vegetable often referred to as the cousin of the more popular turnip. Excellent source of vitamin A and potassium. Use rutabaga anytime a recipe calls for roasted root vegetables. Planted during the summer, they are best bought in late autumn for peak flavor.

* Yellow summer or winter squash--Another vegetable perfect for roasting or putting in a hearty fall stew. High in vitamin C and manganese they are also a good source of potassium, vitamin A, and folate.

* Sweet corn--Corn gets a bum rap for being a 'starchy' vegetable. While it is now available year round, to get the best tasting corn you want to get your pickings at the beginning of summer. Because heat will turn the corn to starch you want to store corn (preferably in their husks) in a cold place until ready to use. It is best to use corn the same day you buy. To test the freshness of corn, pull back the husk and puncture a kernel with a fingernail. If a milky white substance appears, the corn is fresh. Also attempt to buy corn still in their husk as it is fresher than the packaged, hulled corn. Recipe for perfect corn on the cob:
1. Fill a large stockpot halfway with unsalted water and bring to a rolling boil.
2. Add corn on the cob (husk and cornsilk removed) to the boiling water.
3. Let water return to a full boil.
4. Cover pot and immediately turn off heat.
5. Let covered pot sit undisturbed on the burner for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Remove corn and serve hot with your choice of butter, margarine, salt, and/or other seasoning.

* Sweet potatoes--This is number two. I have eaten sweet potatoes in just about every way they can be cooked and I just can't get my taste buds to agree. Mashed, baked, oven baked 'fries', deep fried fries, even mixed in with other ingredients in recipes and this many years later I still don't eat them. However, I do recognize that many people love them (including my husband). If you love them and regularly eat them you are getting high doses of vitamin A and beta-carotene. They are also a good source of potassium.

Stay tuned for Green Foods coming next week.
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