The summer produce season is at its peak in all its Technicolor glory. For better health, you should duplicate this happy color scheme on your plate. Studies suggest that nearly 80 percent of Americans are putting their health at risk by failing to eat a diet rich in specific colorful fruits and vegetables.
The colors of fruits and vegetables are a clue to the important phytonutrients each contains. Phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that can help fight the damage caused to the body’s cells over time that can lead to premature aging and disease. Phytonutrients offer a wide range of health benefits from promoting eye, bone and heart health to supporting immune and brain function.
While health experts recommend you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you should also aim to eat two fruits or vegetables from each of the five color categories, too.
Phytonutrient Color Categories:
Green: Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in lutein, among other phytochemicals. Others in this family are green beans, avocados, kiwi fruit, green peppers and honeydew melon.
Red: Tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon and pink grapefruit contain lycopene, which studies have shown reduces the risk of several types of cancer.
White: Onions (all kinds, including green onions), garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives contain compounds that protect DNA.
Blue/purple: Most of the berries, especially blueberries, as well as plums, red grapes, cranberries, and pomegranates are in this family that contain some of the most powerful antioxidants such as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins reduce inflammation, protect against cancer, and recent studies show positive effects in eyes, arteries, and brains.
Yellow/orange: Citrus fruits as well as peaches, nectarines, pineapple, and papaya are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids, another group of antioxidants that supports the immune system. Other foods rich in carotenes include carrots, pumpkin, mangos, apricots, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Carotenes help improve communication between cells as well as performing many of the same functions as other antioxidants.
Not all vegetables and fruits fit easily into families. Just look for the color. Other plant foods rich in various types of phytonutrients are nuts, seeds, and grains, beans, tea and dark chocolate.
All in all, good nutrition is all about colorful choices!