The goal in making fruit salad should be to construct as colorful a creation as possible.
Sure, it makes for a better-looking, more flavorful salad, but more importantly, using the full palette of nature’s colors means you’re taking advantage of a diversity of nutrients. That’s because each color in the food rainbow represents a unique set of vitamins and antioxidants. A bowl of chopped watermelon may lend you a welcome dose of lycopene, but mix in cantaloupe, kiwifruit, and a handful of blueberries and you have a low-calorie snack with the potential to stave off cancer, reduce inflammation, increase circulation, bolster bone strength, sharpen cognitive function, and improve overall vision. In short, Mother Nature’s multivitamin.
To maximize deliciousness, start by cutting all the fruits into similar-size pieces. A pinch of salt will heighten the flavors all the way around, and a generous squeeze of lime adds a welcome blast of tartness (plus the citric acid helps preserve the colors of the fruit). If you want to get real fancy, a handful of chopped fresh mint may just land your bowl in the fruit salad hall of fame.
Watermelon, persimmons, guava, pink grapefruit
Most rosy hues in the fruit and vegetable kingdom are the result of an important antioxidant called lycopene, a red-colored carotenoid associated with a long list of health benefits. Among the most notable are lycopene’s role in protecting the skin from sun damage and decreasing the risks of heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Lycopene-rich foods have also been shown to decrease symptoms of wheezing, asthma, and shortness of breath in people when they exercise.
Blueberries, blackberries, plums, grapes
Blue and purple foods get their colors from the presence of a unique set of flavonoids called anthocyanins. Flavonoids in general are known to improve cardiovascular health and prevent short-term memory loss, but the deeply pigmented anthocyanins go even further. Researchers at Tufts University have found that blueberries may make brain cells respond better to incoming messages and might even spur the growth of new nerve cells, providing a new meaning to “smart eating.”
Grapes, kiwis, honeydew melon, Granny Smith apples
Not just potent vitamin vessels capable of strengthening bones, muscles, and brains, green foods are also among the most abundant sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant tag team that, among other things, promotes healthy vision. Green fruits and vegetables get their color from chlorophyll, which studies show plays an important role in stimulating the growth of new tissue and hindering the growth of bacteria. As a topical treatment, it can speed healing time by 25 percent.
Cantaloupe, pineapple, peaches, apricots, oranges, bananas
Orange and yellow-colored foods are loaded with beta-carotene, the now-famous nutrient that contributes to immune health, improves communication between cells, and helps fight off cell-damaging free radicals. But beta-carotene has a lesser known, yet equally powerful, cousin called alpha-carotene. A recently published study found that those with the most alpha-carotene in their diets were 40 percent less likely to die from any cause during the 14-year study period.