Most of us know we should be eating more produce each day (at least five servings, we're contractually obligated to tell you). But it also seems that our produce palate is about as exciting as a pair of basic khakis. According to a recent study based on government nutritional data, we're coming up short in terms of eating a variety of fruit and vegetable colors: Sixty-nine percent of Americans don't get enough green; 78 percent don't get enough red; 86 percent don't get enough white; 88 percent don't get enough purple/blue; and 79 percent don't get enough yellow/orange. We tend to eat the same produce over and over again.
This skew toward bland means we're missing out on a lot more than just good-tasting food. "There are unique phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, that vary from color to color. These various compounds all do different things to protect your health. If you're eating only red bell peppers, you're going to be limited as far as health benefits because you're not getting all those other colors," says David Grotto, R.D., author of 101 Optimal Life Foods
When it comes to selecting produce, there's no one tint that rises above the rest. "We need the full spectrum. That's why we're omnivores," Grotto says. Here's what each hue brings you.
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Peak: March to May
Seek out deep-green, heavy artichokes with tightly closed leaves that squeak when pinched. Storage: In the fridge, in a plastic bag, up to five days.Asparagus
Peak: February to June
Buy vibrant green spears with tight, purple-tinged buds. Thin spears are sweet and tender. Storage: Trim the woody ends. Stand the spears in a bit of water in a tall container; cover tops with a plastic bag. Cook within a few days.Avocados
Find firm ones with no sunken, mushy spots, and a waxy rather than shiny appearance. Shake it — a rattle means the pit has pulled away from the flesh. Not good. Storage: To ripen, place in a paper bag and store at room temp for two to four days. Ripe ones can go in the fridge for up to a week.
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Peak: October to April
Look for rigid stems with tight floret clusters that are deep green or tinged purple. Pass on any with yellowing heads — they're too bitter. Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to one week.Green Beans
Peak: May to October
Good beans have vibrant, smooth surfaces. The best are thin, young, and velvety and will snap when you bend them gently. Storage: Refrigerate unwashed in an unsealed bag for up to one week.Kiwis
A ripe kiwi will be slightly yielding to the touch. Avoid mushy or wrinkled ones with an "off" smell. Storage: Let kiwis ripen at room temperature. To speed up the process, place them in a paper bag with an apple or a ripe banana. Once ripe, refrigerate kiwis in a plastic bag for up to a week.Romaine Lettuce
Look for crisp leaves that are free of browning edges and rust spots. Storage: Refrigerate for five to seven days in a plastic bag.
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