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No Small Feat!

No Small Feat!The chemicals that give foods their vibrant colors may be the key to their nutritional power.

Boston [08.17.01] The next time you sit down to dinner, take a closer look at your meal. While there are a lot of foods that cut calories and fat, many are missing one of the most important nutritional elements -- color. According to a nutrition expert, if your food doesn't include a variety of vibrant colors, its probably not giving you the biggest nutritional bang for your buck.

"We want to get color in your diet," James Joseph told The Washington Post. He directs the neuroscience lab at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

The reason, Joseph explained, is that scientists have found a link between the chemicals that give food their color -- called phytochemicals -- and their nutritional advantages.

"Tomatoes are red because of lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to lower rates of cancer as well as decreasing rates of heart disease," reported the Post.

Lutein -- which helps fight some forms of eye disease -- gives spinach and kale their dark green color. And blueberries owe their dark tones to chemicals called anthocyanins.

"Studies have indicated that the chemicals which make the berries blue may improve motor and cognitive skills losses which occur with aging," Joseph told Maine's Bar Harbor Times.

But just one vivid color on your plate isn't enough.

According to the Post, scientists think the chemicals work together. "So it's not enough to just eat red or blue," reported the newspaper. "The idea is to redesign your plate with a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables."

So which foods --and colors -- should a meal contain? Joseph is writing a book called "The Color Code" with the answers.

"Chapters in Joseph's book are divided by color, and an eating plan includes a color-scoring system that rates produce items by their disease-fighting abilities," reported the Post.

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