“Eat the rainbow” is nutritional advice you’ve probably heard many times. That’s because deeply colored fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious, largely due to the pigments they contain. Different pigments confer different benefits, which makes eating a variety of colors a good plan for nutritional variety. That doesn’t mean all pale foods are bereft of health benefits, though. It’s true that you’re better off avoiding white sugar, white bread, and white rice. But if you think you should pass on cauliflower, onions, garlic, and mushrooms, think again!
Cauliflower: Commendable Crucifer
Like its cousins broccoli, cabbage, and kale, cauliflower is also a crucifer. That means it’s rich in beneficial phytonutrients which have well-recognized anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to help fight cancer by supporting the body’s detoxification pathways.
Because cauliflower has a mild taste and a starchy texture, you can swap it for less healthy, carb-heavy foods. Mashed or grated and steamed, it makes a substitute for potatoes or rice, and can even be baked into a pizza crust.
Cauliflower won’t taste exactly like the foods it replaces in these recipes, but has its own unique appeal. When preparing other cauliflower recipes, avoid boiling the cauliflower because that can destroy its healthful phytonutrients. Steam, stir-fry, or roast it instead.
Onions and Garlic: Awesome Alliums
Onions and garlic are part of the allium family, which also includes chives, leeks, scallions, and shallots. What alliums have in common, besides imparting a delicious savory flavor to food, are organosulfur compounds. These phytonutrients protect against cardiovascular disease and tamp down chronic inflammation.
Some people like the intense flavor of raw onions, while others prefer sautéing them over low heat to bring out their natural sweetness. Just like onions, garlic becomes mellower when roasted. To create a base for garlic recipes, try roasting a whole bulb of garlic. You can mix the resulting paste into sour cream to make a delicious dip, or add salt and spread it on whole-grain bread or crackers. When chopping garlic, allow it to sit for ten minutes before cooking. This helps the garlic release allicin, garlic’s active constituent, and makes it more heat-resistant.
Mushrooms: Fabulous Fungi
Mushrooms contain beta-glucan, a fiber that helps control blood sugar and boosts the immune system. They also provide ergothioneine, an amino acid that acts as an antioxidant. Finally, they have just a little bit of vitamin D, making them one of the few plant sources of this essential nutrient.
Because of mushrooms’ savory taste and chewy texture, they are often used as meat substitutes in recipes, making them perfect for Meatless Mondays.
There are many other nutritious fruits and vegetables without a lot of showy color. This time of year, bananas, pears, parsnips, and ginger spring to mind. What are your favorites?