Colorful Food: Nutritional Power is Packed Into Phytonutrients
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Published on May 12, 2016

black bean salsa

Colorful Food: Nutritional Power is Packed Into Phytonutrients

Each spring, the earth awakens from its winter hibernation with bright, vivid colors – announcing the arrival of a new season.

Nature also uses colors to provide hints about the nutritional value of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans and legumes.

While color is the clue, the nutritional power is packed into phytonutrients.

“Phytonutrients are active compounds in plants that can have great health benefits,” said Lauren Cornay, Registered Dietitian at Avera. “Each phytonutrient has its own unique benefits, so that’s why it’s important to have a colorful diet filled with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.”

Research shows that phytonutrients may have benefits such as prevention against cancer, heart disease and age-related diseases such as macular degeneration. They also may protect against blood clot formation that could lead to heart attack or stroke, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and enhance immunity.

Keep in mind that these benefits are in addition to all of the vitamins and minerals found in plant-based foods. “The research surrounding phytonutrients solidifies why fruits and veggies are such an important part of our diets. That’s why we recommend filling half of your plate with them at each meal.”

And the benefits of a colorful diet aren’t only for adults. “It’s really important for kids to try new foods, such as fruits and vegetables, when they’re young. Encourage them to help pick out and prepare fruits and vegetables. If you involve them in the process, they’re more likely to be receptive to it,” recommended Cornay.

For more information about health and nutrition, call 605-977-7340 to talk with a Registered Dietitian.


Break out the Grill. “People start using their grills more in the spring time, so I often recommend grilling vegetables. Asparagus, for example, is loaded with phytonutrients. All you need to do is lightly coat it in olive oil and grill it for 5-10 minutes. It’s a simple, delicious and nutritious side.” – Lauren Cornay, Avera Registered Dietitian

Spring-forward Smoothie

  • ½ cup frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
  • ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • ½ cup fresh spinach (small handful, sub 1/8-1/4 cup frozen)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 teaspoon flax seed meal

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pulse on the ice crush option until the berries are mostly blended and then put on puree for about two minutes or until smooth.

Black Bean Salsa

  • 1 (8 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • 1 fresh tomato, chopped
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

Combine ingredients and mix well. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables or as a side dish.

Pineapple Salsa

  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1 cup red and/or green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup sweet onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

Blend pineapple, bell pepper, onion, lemon juice, cilantro and jalapeno pepper in a medium bowl. For a richer taste, refrigerate, covered for 4-24 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with grilled chicken or seafood or as an appetizer with chips.

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