No doubt you have heard that foods with the most vibrant colors are the ones that are healthiest for you. While this is certainly true to an extent — dark green leafy lettuce contains high concentrations of Vitamin K and other nutrients compared to iceberg lettuce, the underdog of salad greens — some of our dullest-colored fruits and vegetables are commonly misunderstood as nutritionally bereft.
White cabbage happens to be one of the most nutritious foods for you, packed with Vitamins A, B, C, and K, and even calcium, iron and fiber. "Cabbage increases glutathione, the most important antioxidant for neutralizing the free radicals in the liver," said Sprouts/Sunflower Nutritionist Janet Little.
The oft-overlooked celery, with its greenish pallor, has some calcium and protein in addition to Vitamins A, C, and K. And it is pretty low in calories, to boot! In fact, it is sometimes said that you can burn more calories eating celery than you take in from consuming it.
White beans have as much protein and fiber as red or pink pinto beans. "White beans help to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes," said Little. "Also, the common white bean produces an alpha-amylase inhibitor, which has been characterized and tested in numerous clinical studies to slow the absorption of carbohydrates that can turn into fat."
Don't turn your back on turnips! The fresh white root of a turnip is a great source of vitamin C, while the leafy tops are rich in lutein, folate, calcium and vitamins.
Garlic has long been touted as a health booster. The odoriferous white bulb has been shown to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer. Among other vitamins and minerals, it contains vitamin C, zinc and selenium, and has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. To get the most health benefits from garlic, avoid the powder varieties and slice, chop, mince or press fresh cloves.
The most versatile alabaster veggie, the white onion, provides more fiber (1.5 grams per half cup) and more iron (2 percent of the daily value) than its colorful counterpart, the red onion. "Studies have also shown that onions contain several anti-inflammatory compounds and may be of special benefit to menopausal women who are experiencing loss of bone density," Little said.
Perhaps the palest produce of them all, white cauliflower, is a dense nugget of antioxidant power. Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy. They all contain phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important to your health. Looking for a new spin on cauliflower? Try this silky soup recipe.
Did you know corn started out white when the very first varieties appeared in present-day Mexico thousands of years ago? Then along came a genetic mutation and yellow corn became an evolutionary off-shoot of white corn. Corn kernels acquired chemicals called carotenoids, giving it a yellow color and healthful dose of vitamin A. So yes, yellow corn is a little bit more nutritious than white corn in that respect. Still, white corn is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, folate, magnesium and phosphorus.
White mushrooms have long been celebrated as a source of powerful nutrients that play an important role in keeping the immune system healthy. White button mushrooms represent 90 percent of the total mushrooms consumed in the United States, according to a study conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University. "The results suggest that white button mushrooms may promote immune function by increasing production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while seeking to protect and repair tissue," said Little.
Of course, health goes out the window when you deep-fry these veggies or slather them with butter, sour cream, or fondue cheese. The list goes on, but the point is clear (or shall we say colorless?): don't judge a piece of produce by its color alone.
From a previous issue of Sprouts Farmers Market's monthly e-newsletter. Hungry for more news? Click here to sign up.