A color guide to a healthier you: It is essential that we eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day as part of a plan for healthier living.
It is important that we eat those with the deepest hues of color as they provide us with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that our body’s need to maintain good health and energy levels. They will also protect us against the effects of aging and may well reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease.
Colors you should look for include but not limited to foods that are blue/purple, green, white, yellow/orange and red.
These are the colors of fruits and vegetables which promote good health:
Green Vegetables and Fruits: Asparagus, Green Apple, Cabbage, Broccoli, Green Pepper, Honeydew, Green Beans, Zucchini, Avacado, Spinach
Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and beta-carotene. What is chlorophyll and why is it important? Well, chlorophyll is what enables photosynthesis which, if you think back to your high school Natural Sciences course, is the means in which plants derive energy from light.
The nutrients found in green vegetables and fruits lower cancer risk, help to normalize blood pressure as well as aid in maintaining appropriate LDL to HDL ratios. Green veggies also help support vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost immunity!
Red Vegetables and Fruits: Beets, Cherries, Pink grapefruit, Red Pepper, Tomatoes, Radishes, Strawberries, Watermelon, Pomegranate, Cranberries
Red vegetables and fruits contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid and quercetin. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant to which some say is more potent that Vitamin E. Antioxidants help defend against carcinogens and free-radicals, which over time, cause disease and aging. To further, research has shown that lycopene, as found in tomatoes, reduces prostate cancer risk. Ellagic acid and quercetin are also known to be very strong antioxidants with claimed benefits to certain cancers and heart disease.
Orange and Yellow Vegetables and Fruits: Apricots, Squash, Lemon, Nectarine, Grapefruit, Oranges, Carrots, Pumpkin, Cantaloupe, Yellow Pepper, Sweet Potato
Yellow and orange veggies and fruits contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, as well as vitamin C. Beta-carotene is a plant carotenoid which when consumed in its natural state, is converted to Vitamin A in the body (a retinol). It is also what gives yellow and orange foods their color. Beta-carotene provides a number of benefits to the body: improves night vision and prevents night blindness, promotes the formation of strong bones, guards against bacterial, parasitic and viral infections, keeps skin healthy and smooth, guards against heart disease, stroke and lowers blood pressure. Quick pointer: Beta-carotene/vitamin A is a fat-soluable substance. Accompany with a little fat for best absorption.
Blue and Purple Vegetables and Fruits: Blackberries, Plums, Eggplant, Blueberries, Purple Cabbage, Raisins, Pruns, Purple Grapes
Contain nutrients which include lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. You’ve likely heard about Resveratrol touted as having powerful anti-aging properties and is the hot topic of much of the anti-aging research currently underway. Some studies conclude that Resveratrol can extend life by counteracting the negative impact of high glucose and insulin blood levels and reducing overall systemic inflammation. It is also thought to prevent heart disease and protect the brain against Alzheimer’s.
White Vegetables and Fruits: Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Turnips, Onions, Jicama, Bananas, Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, Shallots
White veggies and fruits contain nutrients such as Ergothioneine, beta-glucans, as well as EGCG and SDG which provide powerful immune boosting activities. These nutrients also activate natural killer B and T cells, reducing the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Ergothioneine is a powerful antioxidant present in the mushroom and is very effective in free-radical protection as well as boosting up immunity. Mushrooms contain natural antibiotics (similar to penicillin, which itself is extracted from mushrooms) which inhibit microbial and other fungal infections.
…So when planning your meals for healthy eating everyday or when dining out, think color.
Eric and Maleka Beal are health coaches and co-founders of BetterChoices, a health & wellness company and social community focused on educating, advocating, and promoting better health and wellness through lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness education.