This color-coded guide makes medicine out of groceries

Yes, I know how many people get overwhelmed with the task of prepping a healthy grocery list. Because I talk to them every day in my office.

That’s exactly why this topic is such a central part of the conversation we’ve been having. Yesterday, I talked about some of the serious problems with nutrition labels. But more specifically, I want everyone to understand–the meals you eat should not be pre-packaged.

And, in fact, America’s love affair with processed food is a huge part of our problem.

Preparing whole, real food is the only foolproof way to avoid mystery ingredients. Even ones claiming to be “natural.” Having just learned beaver urine (yes, beaver urine) is one of the many sketchy components you could encounter in so-called “natural flavoring,” I really don’t know why anyone would eat anything out of a box again.

But eating fresh food isn’t just about keeping the junk out of your body. It’s about getting the good stuff in.

“Let food by thy medicine” isn’t just some hippie dippie cliché. These are words to live by. And it’s a lot simpler than most people think.

That’s because your guide to good shopping is pretty much color-coded. Allow me to explain…

Most people are already aware of the importance of green foods. Where would we be without the kale, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts? There’s a reason so many of my recipes are built on green foods.

Among many other nutrients, they’re loaded with lutein. This helps to keep your eyes healthy by reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. And compounds in cruciferous greens also help to balance hormones and clear cancer-causing toxins from your body.

Then you have red foods, such as tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and red bell peppers. These are all rich in lycopene. And research shows that lycopene can reduce your risk of several types of cancer–prostate cancer, in particular.

Blue or purple foods such as blackberries, blueberries, plums and red cabbage contain anthocyanins. These are antioxidants that boost brain health and improve circulation. They may even act as anti-aging agents. (And they’re a whole lot cheaper than plastic surgery, that’s for sure.)

There’s also the orange and yellow family of veggies. I’m talking about orange and yellow bell peppers, cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Basically, any orange fruit or vegetable is packed with beta carotene. This carotenoid protects your eyes and boosts your immune system, among other important roles.

And last but not least, I know I often caution against white foods–white bread, white rice, white potatoes, white sugar. The usual gut-busting, blood-sugar spiking suspects. But there’s an exception to every rule, right?

White foods like garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, and cauliflower contain compounds known as allicins. And allicins boost heart health, combat cancer, and wipe out viral and bacterial infections.

Those are the only white foods I recommend… and I recommend you eat a lot of them.

And there you have it. A simple color check really is the easiest way possible to take stock of your food’s nutritional inventory. You don’t need to be a whiz with nutrition labels.

In fact, if your food has a nutrition label at all, that’s strike one against it.

That’s why the farmer’s market is always my favorite place to shop for groceries. It can be tricky in the winter months. But the perimeter of any local supermarket works just as well in a pinch.

The fact is, you should always know what’s in your food and where it came from. I realize this hard line makes dining out somewhat complicated. But you know what?

There’s a simple solution to this problem. Eat at home.