What is the color of your food telling you?

Written by guest blogger Anna Roe, a dietetic intern at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Did you know the outside appearance of your food can tell you a whole lot about the nutritional benefits inside?

Specifically, a food’s color can indicate what kinds of antioxidants the food has. Antioxidants are found in produce and whole grains and can help protect the cells in your body from damage. They do this by neutralizing free radicals – chemicals that can hurt cells, damage their DNA, and play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants is a great way to improve your health. Next time you go grocery shopping, think “red, white and blue” to load up on foods packed with antioxidants.

  • Red fruits and vegetables have a compound called lycopene. Lycopene can help prevent prostate cancer and heart disease. Foods with lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, sweet red peppers and pink grapefruit
  • White fruits and vegetables have flavonols and isothiocyanates. Both have been found to protect against prostate, colorectal, lung and breast cancer. Isothiocyanates also protect against inflammation. Foods with flavonols include grapes, onions and apples. Isothiocyanates can be found in cauliflower.
  • Blue (or purple) fruits have flavonoids, and more specifically anthocyanins (also found in red foods). Flavonoids may protect against stomach and smoking-related cancers and help prevent inflammation. Anthocyanins can also help improve eyesight. Foods with flavonoids include blueberries and blackberries. Foods with anthocyanins include eggplant and grapes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat 2-3 cups of raw or cooked vegetables and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fresh, frozen or canned fruits each day. Remember that fruits and vegetables of all colors – including green, orange and yellow ones – are an essential part of a healthy diet.

References: National Cancer Institute

Next steps:

UK dietitian offers insight into healthy-fat discussion

Siddhi Shroff

Siddhi Shroff

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Although eating too much fat can lead to weight gain and health issues, a moderate amount of fat is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Adding a little fat to your food — through ingredients like cooking oil — can help fill you up, become the body’s source of energy once carbohydrates are used up and help with absorption of several fat-soluble vitamins.

Recently, one of the most popular sources of added fat — coconut oil — has come under fire. Coconut oil was marketed as healthy despite evidence to the contrary, but recent high-profile recommendations from the American Heart Association have advised limiting its use.

Are you confused about which oils might benefit you most in the kitchen? Here’s a quick rundown of which types of cooking oils you should avoid, and which ones you should definitely try.

Target oils low in saturated fats

Limit your use of saturated or “solid fats” – oils that are solid at room temperature. They include coconut oil, butter, palm oil, beef tallow, lard and more. Because saturated fat contributes to increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, the AHA recommends that saturated fat should make up less than 10 percent of total caloric intake for healthy Americans, and no more than 6 percent for those who need to lower cholesterol levels.

Luckily, there are a variety of common cooking oils that are low in saturated fat and offer other health benefits:

  • Canola oil: It’s the lowest in saturated fat (7 percent). It also contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, which lower LDL, and in recent years has been studied in relation to helping control blood glucose. This oil is great for stir-frying, grilling and replacing many solid fats in recipes.
  • Olive oil: A mainstay of the popular Mediterranean diet, it’s associated with many health benefits, including lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and a reduction of inflammation in the body. Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils are better for uncooked dishes, like salads, while refined olive oils will stand up better to higher-heat uses.
  • Peanut oil: It’s high in monounsaturated (good) fat and contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps maintain a strong immune system and healthy skin and eyes. With its high smoke point, this oil is ideal for frying, roasting and grilling.
  • Avocado oil: This oil is also high in monounsaturated fats, can be good for cholesterol levels and contains vitamin E, which also helps with the formation of red blood cells. It has a mild flavor, which makes it great for salad dressing and garnishes, and it also has a high smoke point, which means it’s useful for high-heat cooking as well. Canola oil is more budget-friendly if avocado oil is too expensive or difficult to find.

Next steps:

Join us for a free cooking demonstration on July 17

Patients, families and the public are invited to a free cooking demonstration on July 17 presented by Anna Roe, a dietetic intern at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Make delicious snacks to take on the go!

Join us in creating delicious, portable and energy-filled snacks using ingredients ranging from peanut butter to lemon!

When: July 17, 3-5 p.m.

Where: UK Markey Cancer Center, Psych-Oncology Services, located on the third floor of the Whitney-Hendrickson Building, Room 306.

Parking is available in the Markey visitor lot next to the Whitney-Hendrickson Building, accessible via Hospital Drive.

This event is free, but please RSVP to Siddhi Shroff by calling 859-323-4769 or via email at siddhi.shroff@uky.edu.

Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center, Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center.
  • Check out the rest of the Markey Menu blog for more cancer-related nutritional tips, recipes, and health and wellness information.