Have you ever heard or read anywhere that it is important to “eat a rainbow” of foods? It might sound silly, but there’s a good science behind the concept of eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables. According to research reported by North Dakota State University (NDSU), people who eat a variety of different of fruits and veggies may have reduced risk of certain diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Plants derive their colors from the phytonutrients they contain. Phytonutrients, also known as photochemicals are natural chemicals or compounds produced by plants. They keep plants healthy, protecting them from insects and the sun.
For example, plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices etc. have different colors. The colors identify certain nutrients, that can be seen as tidbits of information about the plant and the nutrients it may contain. Hence, the color of your food can tell a lot about its nutritional value. Read on, and find out some of these colors and what they contain.
This is strongest color in the color spectrum, red foods are loaded with the phytonutrient lycopene which gives them their vibrant red color. Lycopene also helps battle cancer, heart disease and has been known to help in cases of cataracts and asthma. Tomatoes and watermelons contain the highest levels of lycopene. Red beets are a good source of vitamin C for fighting the common cold, and betaine for cardiovascular health. Beets have zero fats, are low in calories, and are a great energy booster because they are high in carbohydrates and a natural source of sugar.
Red berries like cherries are filled with vitamins C and A which help to fight inflammation and protect your body from immune system deficiencies. Strawberries are believed to contain more vitamin C than oranges and have also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.
Is it surprising that green foods are packed with nutrients? Absolutely not. Chlorophyll is the main nutrient found in green plants and it is the pigment responsible for photosynthesis in plants. Green plants contain vitamins A, C and K, iron, antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids. Other nutrients including lutein, zeaxanthin, Indoles, Saponins, Isothiocyanates, Magnesium and folate.
These nutrients have been found to help with lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels as well as maintaining retinal (eye) health and boosting immunity. Green foods you can try are lettuce, green onions, kiwi, green peppers, avocado, pears, green grapes, green apples, honeydew, limes, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, celery, peas, green beans, artichokes, purslane, okra, and all the dark, leafy greens.
Blue or Purple
Blue and purple get combined because technically, there are no pure blue foods. Blue or purple foods contain phytonutrients known as anthocyanins and resveratrol which have been linked with antioxidants and anti-aging properties in the body. Other nutrients are lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, fiber and flavonoids.
Similar to the previous nutrients, these nutrients support retinal health, lower LDL cholesterol, boost immune system activity, support healthy digestion, improve calcium and other mineral absorption, fight inflammation, reduce tumor growth and limit the activity of cancer cells. Blue and purple foods include purple eggplants, blueberries, dried plums, elderberries, purple figs, purple grapes, raisins, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple carrots and purple peppers.
Orange or Yellow
The phytonutrients responsible for imparting the orange or yellow color to certain foods are Alpha- and beta-carotene (both types of carotenoids) which are antioxidants. These protects against cancer, but contain beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A prevents acne and wrinkle. Vitamin A is needed for strong immune function and healthy vision. Beta-carotene is also good for night vision. Orange and yellow foods are also rich in vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and bromelaine (in pineapple.) Examples are yellow apples, Cantaloupe, apricots, butternut squash, carrots, oranges, peaches, yellow peppers, mangoes, pineapple, corn, tangerines etc.
White foods contain phytonutrients called anthoxanthins and allicin (found in garlic.) Anthoxanthins can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of heart disease. Some white fruits and vegetables also provide a good source of the mineral potassium. Potassium is a key nutrient that is involved in the proper functioning of all cells, tissues, and organs. Bananas, potatoes, white beans, are high in potassium. Other nutritious white foods to add to your meal include onions, mushrooms, parsnips, turnips, jicama, garlic, daikon radish and cauliflower.
We understand the importance of adding fruits and vegetables to our every meal, because all these delicious fruits and vegetables provide us with essential nutrients and give us a big dose of phytonutrients. Treat yourself right and take advantage of what grows naturally, so you can get all the nutrients you need.
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…healthy foods, healthy lives.