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Eat the Rainbow: The “Sweet 16”

In 2004, Dan Buettner and a team of the world’s most renowned longevity researchers, set out to identify areas of world where people live longer and healthier lives. In these “Blue Zones”, they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.

After studying their lifestyle habits, the team discovered specific characteristics shared by all of the centenarians. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that one of the commonalities was a whole-food, plant-based diet of vegetables, fruits, and beans.

 Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day offers an array of natural plant chemicals called “phytochemicals”—they are responsible for the plant’s color and help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, arterial disease, and certain cancers. Interestingly, the Blue Zone centenarians were found to enjoy much lower rates of these very diseases.

What are the “Sweet 16”?

Understand that all vegetables benefit the health of your body, but some of the superstars in Heinen’s produce department are your “Sweet 16”. They include:

  1. Alliums (Garlic/Onions/Leeks/Shallots)
  2. Asparagus
  3. Avocados
  4. Beets (red or yellow)
  5. Cabbage
  6. Carrots
  7. Celery
  8. Cruciferous (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower)
  9. Peppers
  10. Radishes
  11. Eggplant
  12. Jicama
  13. Kohlrabi
  14. Sprouts
  15. Squash
  16. Sweet Potatoes/Yams

Eat more cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies

Cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, are a class of veggies belonging to the Brassicaceae family and named after the “cross-bearing” (Cruciferae) shape of their flowers.

These are the veggies I always turned my nose up as a kid. But it turns out, my mom knew something I didn’t. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in free radical-neutralizing antioxidants and other cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. When eaten regularly as part of a whole-food, plant-based diet, they can also help you: manage your weight, balance blood sugar and certain hormones, reduce inflammation, and support heart health.

Cauliflower is one of the more versatile cruciferous vegetables. It can be steamed and pureed as a replacement for mashed potatoes, and even finely diced and stir-fried as a stand-in for rice!

There are many colorful varieties of cauliflower at Heinen’s, including orange, purple, white, and green (also called Romanesco). Remember, each color offers different phytochemicals and carries specific health benefits, so be sure to try them all!

Sweet 16 Ideas

The sky’s the limit when it comes to adding more veggies to your daily meals. Try one or more of these simple ideas.

Add:

  • ¼ cup of frozen cauliflower to smoothies and blend.
  • Roasted cauliflower or broccoli as a dinner side dish. Drizzle bite-size pieces with a bit of Heinen’s avocado oil, add a dash of salt and pepper, a pinch of curry, and pop in your oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees!
  • Fill a 3-cup container with rainbow veggies and snack on them during “snack attack” times. Try a combination of bell pepper strips, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, cauliflower florets, cucumber slices, and jicama sticks.
  • Top your pizza with extra peppers, onions, and tomatoes!

Replace:

  • Rice or potato dishes with cauliflower rice or cauliflower mash! Learn how to make this week’s featured recipe of Turmeric Cauliflower Mash!

Food for thought

Unless your idea of eating the rainbow is French fries with ketchup, you can’t get this one wrong. Eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables every day is an extremely powerful strategy for disease-prevention. Living to 100 is one thing, but living vibrantly to 100 is another story!

Melanie Jatsek
By Melanie Jatsek RD, LD
Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek believes that the answer to a strong, healthy and vibrant body lies within. She graduated cum laude from the University of Akron, earning a degree in Nutrition & Dietetics and has over 20 years of experience in wellness program development, health coaching and professional speaking. As a published author of three books and registered dietitian for Heinen’s Grocery Store, Melanie offers programs, services, and tools to help Heinen’s customers take inspired action to build the healthy body they were meant to live in…without giving up their favorite foods.

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