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Different Colored Vegetables That Pack a Big Nutrition Punch

Brighten Up Your Plate

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It's no surprise that eating the rainbow can help you stay on track with your health goals. And when it comes to adding color to your dish, there's no easier way than cooking with heirloom varieties.

These colorful vegetables pack a serious nutrition punch. With any heirloom variety of fruit or veggie, the phytochemicals, which gives them their unique hue, will offer up different health benefits, says Kelly R. Jones, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.. Things like heart health, eye health, immune support, and more.

So, swap out your usual picks for these unique options from time to time, and your body and belly will thank you. Need some inspiration? Get cooking with these six heirloom vegetable recipes.

Photo: sallyjshintaffer/Getty Images

Heirloom Tomatoes

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Yes, you should believe the heirloom tomato hype: They actually taste different, and there's greater nutritional bang for your buck. "Since the commercial tomatoes we are used to are grown specifically for size and color, they may contain less vitamin C and immune-boosting phytochemicals than an heirloom variety," says Jones.

As for flavor? "Many people may just enjoy a sweeter flavor from a variety such as Ruby Gold, Cherokee Lime, or Chocolate Stripe," she says. (Betcha didn't know there were so many kinds of tomatoes, eh?) When combined in a salad like this, the heirloom tomatoes hit all the taste buds. Keep it simple with fresh produce, fiber-filled barley, and just a bit of olive oil to finish it off. Feel free to sprinkle with some fresh herbs of choice, like parsley or basil, too.

Try it: Heirloom Tomato and Beet Salad

Photo: Foxes Love Lemons

Yellow and Purple Carrots

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What's better than staring at a bright plate of gorgeous orange carrots? When there's a mix of purple and yellow in between! What's more, rainbow carrots usually come in a mixed bunch at the store, so it's a relatively easy thing to find.

"Orange provides the most carotenoids, purple provides the anthocyanins, and yellow have more of the specific carotenoid lutein, which may benefit eye health," says Jones.

Roast them all with cumin and drizzle with a refreshing sauce of Greek yogurt tahini for a vegetarian dish bursting with color and flavor. Try sprinkling with sesame seeds for some extra crunch.

Try it: Cumin Roasted Carrots with Tahini Dressing

Photo: Broma Bakery

Purple Sweet Potatoes

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You might already be reaching for orange sweet potato fries as a more nutritious version of regular spuds. "A typical sweet potato contains much more vitamin A and carotenoids as compared to a russet, golden, or red potato," says Jones. But there's an interesting spin that you're missing: purple sweet potatoes.

Going purple means you'll snatch up more anthocyanins, which are a kind of flavonoid (read: antioxidant) that gives purple-hued veggies like eggplant their hue. Slice these bright-colored veggies thin to make variations on sweet potato toast, or go for wedges to make these fries with a creole seasoning with cayenne pepper for a spicy kick.

Try it: Purple Sweet Potato Fries

Photo: Pack Mamma

Orange Cauliflower and Cabbage Salad with Lemon Poppy Dressing

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No, this isn't just turmeric sprinkled on white cauliflower. It's actually orange cauliflower. And while the taste might be the same, that subtle, but important oomph of color is definitely there. The orange color comes from phytochemical carotenoids, and compared to white cauliflower, it contains roughly 25 percent more vitamin A, says Jones. "These phytochemicals protect the eyes and benefit skin and nails," she says.

What's more, this recipe uses coconut oil for better nutrient absorption, as well as a nuttier taste. And the homemade lemon poppy dressing gives the entire plate bit of acidity and zest.

Try it: Orange Cauliflower and Cabbage Salad with Lemon Poppy Dressing


Photo: The Toasted Pine Nut

Pink Watermelon Radishes

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You might think it's the colorful heirloom tomatoes that are the unique ingredient on this plate, but we're focused on the watermelon radishes. Also an heirloom variety, watermelon radishes are crunchy and colorful with a striped pinkish-purple hue. (You'll find them brightening up lots of vegetable charcuterie boards.)

High in minerals like phosphorus and potassium, they're a healthy addition to any recipe, says Jones. This recipe slices them thinly and uses avocado or olive oil to add a little char from the grill.

Try it: Grilled Heirloom Veggie Salad

Photo: Wife Mama Foodie

Black Rice

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Okay, so rice is a grain, not a veggie, but the color-swap benefits were too good to leave out of this equation. Ditch boring white rice and consider occasionally swapping out your go-to brown rice, too, and try the black variety also known as "forbidden" rice. Black rice "contains slightly more protein, fiber, and iron than white or brown rice, and black provides higher phytochemical levels, containing more anthocyanins than any other grain," says Jones.

There's nothing forbidden about this delicious salad, as it's high in fiber, potassium, and healthy fats thanks to the flaxseed dressing. And if you're looking to kick that protein up another notch, try finishing with a dollop of Greek yogurt or some cheese, like goat or feta.

Try it: Black Rice, Beet, and Kale Salad with Cider Flax Dressing

Photo: Yummy Beet


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