Fruits and vegetables come in different colors and each of these colors is a result of certain antioxidants, phytonutrients and nutrients. So how does one know what color fruit and vegetable to eat? The answer is simple; you must eat “Rainbow colored fruit/vegetable” platter to get all health benefits. The different fruit colors are a result of different pigments and each one of which offers different health benefits. It is generally considered, that darker the color, the greater the health benefit the produce offers. Thus; dark green romaine lettuce will have more nutrition than light green iceberg lettuce, red or sweet potatoes have more health benefits than white potatoes and so on.
America eats only beige!
Unfortunately, the standard American diet is severely lacking in colored fruits and vegetables and beige is the color everyone seems to love. Crackers, cookies, breads etc have become the mainstay of American eating habits. These foods are cheap, conveniently available and tasty yet they are also filled with harmful ingredients. It is no wonder that more Americans are battling cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes etc.Hence, it is very important that one eats more colorful fruits and vegetables to get all the health benefits.
Color and diet: What’s color got to do with diet?
Ever wondered why spinach is so green and blueberries are so blue? The answer is phytochemicals. These substances only occur in nature in plants and they provide us with numerous health benefits. Scientists also believe that phytochemicals provide the color to various fruits and vegetables while also interacting with vitamins, minerals and other health nutrients to provide the human body with several benefits. This is the main reason why colored fruits and vegetables can provide heart healthy benefits and also reduce risk of several lifestyle diseases. Does that mean a single-colored fruit only contains a single type of phytochemical? The answer is no– even a single colored fruit will still contain multiple phytochemicals along with vitamins and minerals to provide us with several disease-reducing benefits.
When you eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, you ensure an intake of assortment of nutrients which work synergistically with the phytochemicals. Hence, a pragmatic way of achieving optimal nutrition and overall health is to eat a varied and colorful diet and even count these colors.
What do different colors of fruits and vegetables mean?
Blue/Purple– This color is due to the fruit’s anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that provide numerous heart healthy benefits. The darker the blue color, the higher the concentration of phytochemicals in it. Go in for blueberries, eggplants etc for getting Anthocyanins. Blueberries are especially known for their very high antioxidant levels. Other fruits containing Anthocyanins include: pomegranates, blackberries, plums, prunes etc.
Green– Green leafy vegetables are rich in chlorophyll as well as isothiocyanates. These reduce carcinogenic agents from the liver. Green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage etc also contain several other anticancer compounds. Apart from these antioxidants, the green cruciferous vegetables are rich in Vitamin K, folic acid, potassium etc. So go on and eat plenty of Bok Choy, Brussel sprouts, Broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables etc.
Green/Yellow– These vegetables and fruits are rich in lutein which is very important for eye health. Lutein is especially necessary for the elderly people to prevent age related macular degeneration.Some of these green-yellow fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamin C. Examples are avocado, Kiwi, spinach, pistachio nuts, etc.
Red– The main pigment that gives the red color to fruits and vegetables is Lycopene. It is a powerful antioxidant that is being researched for preventing cancer as well as heart attacks. Lycopene is also useful for protecting prostate health and maintaining the breast tissue. Red fruits and vegetables are also rich in flavonoids, resveratrol and vitamin C as well as folates. Resveratrol is abundant in the skin of red grapes and is an antioxidant which is being investigated for its cancer preventive properties. Examples: grapes, cranberries, tomatoes, watermelons, guava, pink grapefruit etc.
Yellow/Orange– Carotenoids or beta carotene is responsible for imparting the yellow-orange-red pigment color to certain fruits and vegetables. These are extremely rich in vitamin A and retinol-which is needed for acne and wrinkle prevention. Vitamin A is needed for strong immune function and healthy vision. Research is showing that certain beta carotenes are also useful in preventing cancers of the stomach, esophagus etc. Examples: Mangoes, apricots, carrots, pumpkins, squashes, etc.
No color– Some vegetables have no color on their inside (eggplant). That does not mean they are deficient in nutrients or phytochemicals. In fact; many types of flavonoids are actually colorless and they still help the body counter the free radical formation.
Eating and counting colors
Experts recommend that our diet should consist of rainbow colored fruits and vegetables to get all their health benefits. So, the next time you shop, take a look at your cart. If you see all green colored items from the produce section- like spinach, Green apples, Kiwis etc, go back and swap one of the items for oranges, strawberries or blueberries. There are nearly 4000 phytochemicals available in nature and to get their wonderful health benefits, we need to eat more colored fruits and vegetables daily.