Feeding the mind and body with color

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vegetablesFueling the body is as  important as fueling the truck, and scientific studies have proven a direct correlation between eating healthier and better brain function. Eating a variety of colorful food provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish your body.  These benefits can’t be replaced by taking supplements. Phytochemicals are substances that occur naturally, only in plants, that may provide health benefits beyond those that essential nutrients provide. They are thought to work intrinsically with vitamins, minerals, and fiber to enhance the positive effects of those naturally occurring in food. 

Eating healthy on the road is often difficult as, many times, there are no fresh fruit or vegetable options available. However, truck stops are trending toward a larger selection, and there are some fresh options that don’t require refrigeration, so having a basic knowledge of what you need can help you stock the truck and make your food selections accordingly. Each color represents a unique set of characteristics when it comes to phytochemicals. 

Orange and yellow foods contain beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that may help protect your cells from environmental toxins and the natural aging process. A diet high in beta-carotene may reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, including breast, colon, lung and prostate. Carrots, oranges, tangerines and yams are easily stored items.

Blue and purple foods contain compounds called flavonoids, which may help increase the vitamin C levels in your cells. This can boost immunity and help prevent damage from free radicals, rogue molecules that can alter DNA. They  may also act as anti-inflammatories, and thus protect against heart disease and stroke. Blackberries, blueberries and grapes travel well in ziplock baggies, but do require a relatively cool storage area to remain fresh.

Red fruits and vegetables often contain lycopene, another strong antioxidant. A few promising studies have found that diets high in lycopene may help reduce the risk of cancers, most notably of the prostate. A big bag of shiny, red apples on the truck will do the trick, but you have to eat the skin. Interestingly enough, levels of lycopene appear to be higher in cooked tomatoes, such as those found in sauce and paste, than in fresh tomatoes, so getting more lycopene can be as easy as ordering extra sauce on a pizza.

Green foods such as broccoli, kale, collards, spinach, green beans and cabbage contain an antioxidant phytonutrient called lutein. Studies of it have show it helps protect eyes against two common diseases of aging which result in blindness. The American Optometric Association states that lutein is an important defender against both macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein happens to be one of a few phytonutrients that can be closely replicated by taking a supplement; however, the best absorption of the body comes from actual food. So if you don’t like eating your greens, you might consider a lutein supplement.