How do you decide what goes on your plate? Do you use the Food Guide Pyramid, the Four Basic Food Groups or the 5 a Day - The Color Way as your dietary guide? A recent study from Pennsylvania State University that was published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry asserts that color might be most important when making food choices.
Purple potatoes, and other foods that are high in antioxidants like phenolic acids and anthocyanins, could lower your risk for colon cancer and other diseases like type-2 diabetes. Jairam K.P. Vanamala, a professor of food sciences at Pennsylvania State University, led a research project to put this theory to the test. The team studied two groups of pigs. One group received a normal diet and one group was fed a normal diet supplemented with purple potatoes. After 13 weeks, the pigs that ate purple potatoes experienced a reduction in pro-inflammatory proteins in the colon.
After he completed the study on the pigs, Professor Vanamala reflected on the team’s discovery: "What we are learning is that food is a double-edge sword — it may promote disease, but it may also help prevent chronic diseases, like colon cancer" (source: Medical News Today).
Professor Vanamala’s study is one of many that underscore the importance of eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and lowering intake of high-fat foods like red meat. Even though most colon cancers are preventable with healthy choices and regular colonoscopies, the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be 95,520 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the United States this year. This statistic means that colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death among men and women.
If your diet needs an overhaul, it’s not too late to start eating healthier foods. The foods that contain the most nutrition will be on the outer perimeter of the grocery store, especially in the produce section. You don’t have to limit your new diet to purple potatoes either. There are many other foods that contain phenolic acids and anthocyanins.
Good sources of phenolic acids include:
- Citrus fruits
- Tea and coffee
- Red wine
- Flour made from whole wheat, rice, corn or oats
Anthocyanins will often be purple or red in color. Good sources of anthocyanins include:
- Red cabbage
- Red onion
- Red beans
- Black currents
- Red, purple and black grapes
- Red wine
The deepness of the pigment in a fruit or vegetable generally reflects its concentration of antioxidants. The darker the color, the more the benefit (source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
To reduce your risk for colon cancer, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss preventative steps you can take each day. A diet that includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will help you maintain a healthy weight, feel energized and stay colon cancer-free. It’s also important to be aware of risk factors like age, family history and ethnicity, so talk to your doctor to get a full picture of your digestive health.