What color is your food?

If you include a rainbow of colors in your diet, you'll get more nutrition.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The peaches are arriving. The blueberries are almost ripe for the picking, and fresh, watermelons soon will follow. And don't forget the cantaloupes.
Add in all the delicious, colorful fruits available from around the country and you have plenty of material to work with to create fabulous fruit salads.
"Fruit salads are a great way to use the wonderful produce grown locally in our state," said Teresa Hill, nutrition coordinator for the Division of Obesity Prevention and Control with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Not only are fresh fruits pretty to look at and tasty to the tongue, but they're good for you too.
"Fruits are nutrient-dense foods. They provide a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals with relatively few calories," Hill said. They're also rich in fiber, which is crucial to maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Hill notes that recent studies show that eating fruits (and vegetables) can help maintain a healthy weight and fight diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
They're also rich in vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and fiber -- "all of which are generally low in a typical American's diet," Hill said.
For children the recommended daily amount of fruit is five servings. It's seven servings for older children, teens and active women; and nine servings for teenage boys and active men.
Roberta Jupp, cardiovascular dietitian and diabetes educator with Palmetto Health Heart Hospital, tells her patients to gauge serving size by committing to memory the size of a peach.
"So a serving of fresh fruit would be a piece of fruit the size of a peach. If you have a smaller fruit -- plums or kiwi -- two would be considered a serving," Jupp said. "If you have grapes, about 15 to 20 grapes would be a serving."
For folks who like eating in volume, Jupp recommends fruits that are higher in water content, such as grapes and melons.
Jupp also is a big fan of berries, which she considers "one of the best classes of fruits to choose from."
Berries contain anthocyanins, ellagic acid and antioxidants that suppress the aging process and cancer development.
"Sounds pretty good, doesn't it," Jupp said.
Citrus is another powerful category of fruit. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits -- all help fight joint inflammation, allergies and cancers.
It's true that fruits contain sugars, but it's important to understand that these are natural sugars, which are different from those in processed foods.
"Added sugars in processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages really are the main culprits to be concerned about because they're calorie dense instead of nutrient dense," Hill said.
In other words, processed sugars "just add excessive calories to our diet without providing the wonderful nutrient benefits from fruits."
In today's fast-paced culture, fruits also offer a great quick fix. They require very little extra effort beyond washing and chopping. If you buy ready-cut fruit, which is available in most grocery stores, you really have easy prep work on your hands.
You can experiment with fruit combinations or dressings, too. Vinaigrettes, yogurt toppings or chopped nuts are great options.
Jupp especially recommends adding nuts if you have a fruit salad for your entire meal. The protein in the nuts will balance the carbohydrates in the fruit.
The recipe photographed this week combines avocados with bananas, kiwi, mango, papaya and coconut. Another recipe we provide this week is one Charleston, S.C., culinary expert Nathalie Dupree adapted from the London Cordon Bleu. The recipe combines chunks of cantaloupe and cucumber with tomatoes. Sprigs of freshly grown mint and a tasty vinaigrette give the unusual combination further complexity of flavor.
Both salads fit what Jupp describes as the rainbow test.
"Just in general, the more of a rainbow of color you have, the better," she said.
6 servings
2 cups pitted Northwest fresh Rainier cherries
2 cups pitted Northwest fresh red sweet cherries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup cored diced apples
For honey-lime dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon each fresh lime juice and honey
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon shredded lime peel
1/8 teaspoon salt
For dressing, combine all ingredients and mix well.
For salad, combine fruits and dressing and refrigerate until served.
Note: You may substitute blackberries, raspberries or halved strawberries for blueberries. Fresh pineapple or orange also may be added.
--From nwcherries.com
6-8 servings
2 10-ounce packages fresh spinach, washed, drained and patted dry
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 red eating apples, chilled, cored, quartered and chopped into small pieces
Salt and black pepper
Remove any thick spinach stalks; finely shred the leaves.
In a small bowl, whisk oil and lime juice together.
In salad bowl, mix spinach and apples; add dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.
--From "Time-Life Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookbook" (Time-Life, 1996)
8 servings
For the dressing:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup frozen (thawed) limeade concentrate
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
For the salad:
1 cup strawberries, cut in half
1 cup cubed pineapple
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup cubed watermelon
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted, if desired
1. Mix honey, limeade concentrate and poppy seeds in medium bowl.
2. Carefully toss fruit with honey mixture. Sprinkle with almonds.
--From "Betty Crocker Celebrate" (Wiley, 2004)
8 servings
For the almond dressing:
1/3 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons light rum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
For the salad:
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 mango, cut lengthwise in half, pitted and cut up
1 papaya, peeled, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted
First, make dressing.
In large bowl, gently mix remaining ingredients except coconut. Just before serving, sprinkle with coconut. Serve with dressing.
--From "Betty Crocker Celebrate" (Wiley, 2004)
6 servings
For the dressing:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced jumbo yellow onion
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
For the salad:
3 cups fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
12 leaves bib lettuce arranged 2 per plate
To make dressing, combine vinegar, onion, sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, dry mustard and curry powder in a blender. Slowly add oil in a thin stream. Add in poppy seeds. Refrigerate overnight to let flavors meld. Dressing will keep refrigerated for several days.
To make salad, arrange lettuce on plates. Add 1/2 cup pineapple per plate. Drizzle with dressing.
Note: This also is recommended with avocado and grapefruit, arranged in a pinwheel on lettuce.
--From "Entertaining at the College of Charleston" by Zoe Sanders (College of Charleston Foundation, 1998)
8 servings
1 large cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
1 large tomato, cut in wedges
1 head leaf lettuce, washed and dried
For the dressing:
2/3 cup red-wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Whisk vinegar, oil, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, mint, parsley and chives together. Toss with cantaloupe and cucumbers and refrigerate 2 hours.
When ready to serve, drain cantaloupe and cucumbers, reserving marinade. Toss tomato wedges in marinade. Place cantaloupe and cucumbers in center of a serving platter with tomato wedges around the edge.
For individual servings, cut tomato wedges in half and toss with cantaloupe and cucumber. Make beds of lettuce on salad plates and place cantaloupe mixture on top of lettuce.
--From "Entertaining at the College of Charleston" by Zoe Sanders (College of Charleston Foundation, 1998)

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