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Blueberries grow at the Southeast Ag Research and Extension Center.

Janelle Glick, a dietitian with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, recommends using colorful foods as medicine.

Glick recommends aiming to eat five servings of colorful fruits and vegetables each day.

It’s easy to fall into a rut of eating the same kinds of fruits and vegetables, but remember variety is not only the spice of life, it’s the key to a healthy diet.

“There’s a lot of benefits to the different colors,” Glick says. “The way that plants grow and have different colors is actually a way of showing the variety of antioxidants that they contain.

Janelle Glick

Janelle Glick, a dietitian with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, talks about the health benefits of eating a colorful diet.

“That’s why it’s so good to have a variety of colors, because then you’re getting all those antioxidants in your diet,” Glick says. “One thing that has really challenged me to try new things is joining a community supported agriculture program. That’s a great way to support our local farmers and then you’re not going to the grocery store and buying the same things all the time.”

Power of blue

One way to not be blue is to eat blue foods.

There aren’t a ton of naturally occurring blue foods, but the health benefits of the most obvious one, blueberries, make up for the lack of other blue-colored fruits and vegetables.

Blueberries have antioxidants that battle the free radicals in our bodies that can lead to diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

“They have flavonoids, which are helpful in destroying cancer cells — specifically lung, breast and stomach types of cancers,” Glick says. “The anthocyanins in blue-colored vegetables and fruits are really helpful in reducing cardiovascular disease and are also associated with lower risks of cancer.”

The antioxidant flavonoids known as anthocyanins are specifically found in many blue, purple, red and black foods. The word itself basically means just that — cyan is right in the middle of it — and comes from Greek anthos (flower) and kuanos (blue).

Somehow, that’s not all that antioxidant-rich blueberries can do.

“Anthocyanins, specifically, are helpful for the brain,” Glick says. “Blueberries can be brain food. Things that help the heart are also helpful for the brain.”