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Be healthier: Eat red, orange, and green foods

Colorful foods help protect against diseases. Madelyn Fernstrom of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tells you what foods to eat.
/ Source: TODAY

We’ve all heard the saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But what is it about the apple that gives us health benefits? The answer could be in the food’s color. Madelyn Fernstrom, a “Today” contributor and director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was invited on the show to tell us which colorful foods we should be sure to include in our diets. Here are her tips:

When it comes to a healthy diet, color is key. Colorful fruits and vegetables are good for you, because the biological compounds that produce their colors are also health-promoting compounds. In addition to containing vitamins and minerals, colorful foods are also rich in antioxidants that help prevent cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood sugar levels, and immunological disorders.

To make it easier for you to include colorful foods in your diet, make sure that you have these colors on your plate:

Red and purple

  • berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc.)
  • pomegranates
  • apples

Red and purple plus
(These foods that also contain lycopene, a compound that prevents heart disease and cancer.)

  • tomatoes
  • watermelon
  • pink grapefruit


  • carrots
  • pumpkin
  • sweet potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • oranges


  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • green peppers
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • spinach
  • green tea

Other health foods to include on your plate:

  • Yogurt (plain, low fat). Yogurt contains pre-biotics and pro-biotics that helps promote good digestive health. And it provides you with calcium and protein. (Dannon recently introduced a pro-biotic yogurt, Activa.)
  • Almonds and walnuts. These nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids which promote healthier hearts. These fatty acids lower cholesterol and act as an anti-inflammatory for blood vessels.
  • Salmon. This fish is another good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Oats, barley, and wheat germ. These grains also promote good heart health.
  • Onions and garlic. They lower blood pressure and cholesterol. (Garlic is higher in healthy compounds than onions, but you can use more onions to get the same benefit.)
  • Spices. Ginger is good for digestion; turmeric (found in curry) and cumin help with digestion; thyme, sage, rosemary, and oregano decrease stomach gas.