When it comes to food, color matters. It’s common knowledge that eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day is essential. Scientists are now also encouraging us to eat a wide variety of colors throughout the day. The reason is not just to avoid boredom (although an apple EVERY day could become monotonous), but to ensure that we receive the most beneficial nutrients possible.
FACT: The reason that a fruit or veggie is a particular color (the very cause of your carrot’s orange hue) is the chemical within the plant. Plants have phytochemicals, which are powerful antioxidants. These include anthocyanins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and polyphenols. Each of these nutrients protects our bodies in a different way. When combined with each other, they are responsible for the beautiful shades of color we see in our gardens and on our plates. For recipes, click here.
Let’s explore each color group—how it is useful, and where we can find it.
Red and Blue
This group contains high levels of anthocyanins and lycopene. Anthocyanins are known to protect cells from damage and are especially useful for the cardiovascular system. Lycopene is a strong detox phytochemical and has been shown to prevent cancer. This group is also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber.
- Red Bell Peppers
- Red Grapefruit
Orange fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin A, which contains beta-carotene, a strong protectant of eyesight. Carotenoids have also been shown to improve the immune system throughout the body. Foods in this group also contain vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Orange Peppers
Yellow foods are high in fiber and potassium. These keep blood pressure down and also prevent muscle cramps. These foods are also great sources of vitamin B6. Pineapple has a bonus enzyme called bromelain that reduces swelling in the digestive tract.
- Spaghetti Squash
- Yellow Peppers
Leafy greens are an important source of indoles and isothiocyanates. They have natural anti-inflammatory and strong anti-viral properties. Green vegetables have been proven to effectively reduce the risk of cancer. The color comes from chlorophyll, which works as a detoxifier that removes impurities from the blood. This group is also a great source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
These foods are high in the anthocyanins, which are essential for strong blood vessels. They are similar to those found in the red category and also include helpful flavonoids. In addition, naturally purple foods contain vitamin A, which encourages the production of collagen and is essential for healthy skin.
- Concord Grapes
- Purple cabbage
- Purple potatoes
- Purple carrots
Tips For Increasing Your Colorful Intake:
- Stock your home with the colors of the season. A trip to your local farmer’s market will help you add more fruits and vegetables to your plate.
- Include a serving of fruits or vegetables with each meal and snack.
- Keep raw vegetables nearby, especially while on the go.
- Choose fruit for dessert.
- Add extra vegetables to soups and casseroles.
- Drink 100% fruit juice or smoothies. For recipes, click here.
- Add lettuce and spinach to sandwiches.
- Carry dried fruit to snack on.