According to the Produce for Better Health, PBH, it is no longer enough to eat your "greens." Nutrition and health researchers are learning that eating your blues, reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and even whites are also important for your health. An easy and fun way to remember to eat your fruits and vegetables is by thinking of eating the different colors of the rainbow. This ensures giving your body a wide range of valuable nutrients like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. In addition to these nutrients, fruits and vegetables are filled with disease-fighting chemicals known as phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals are healthful chemicals found in fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals may be referred to as antioxidants, flavonoids, isoflavones, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, and polyphenols. Phytochemicals are responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their color. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, research has shown that eating these powerful nutrients may strengthen the immune system and decrease the risk of certain cancers, type II diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Phytochemicals often work together, so it is important to choose fruits and vegetables from all the color groups.
Red Fruit and Vegetables
Examples of red fruits and vegetables are red grapes, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, pink or red grapefruit, tomatoes, beets, radishes, red peppers, rhubarb, cherries, cranberries and red apples. Lycopen and anthocyanins are both powerful antioxidants that give the red group their color. These phytochemicals are thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially prostate cancer. They are also linked to heart health and prevention of lung disease. Lycopene and anthocyanins also help to maintain memory function and urinary tract health and fight off infections as well.
Green Fruits and Vegetables
Green fruits and vegetables include foods such as kiwi fruit, honeydew melon, avocado, broccoli, spinach, artichoke, zucchini, lettuce, celery, asparagus, edamame, okra, kale, turnip greens and peas. Phytochemicals found in green foods include lutein, zeaxanthin and indoles and are thought to help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. They also assist to speed up the action of enzymes that break down carcinogens as well as strengthen bones and teeth.
Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables
This color category contains fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, yellow peppers, corn, pineapple, carrots, butternut squash, peaches, pumpkin, apricots, tangerines and oranges. Phytochemicals found in this group include carotenoids and bioflavonoids, which help maintain the immune system, slow aging, prevent heart disease, protect against cancer and improve vision health.
White and Tan Fruits and Vegetables
This is often the forgotten color group, yet whites are important, too. Examples from this group are bananas, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, cauliflower, garlic, jicama, ginger and turnips. Anthoxanthins, which are in the white/tan group, may help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and prevent heart disease. Allicin, which has been found to have anti-tumor effects and may especially decrease risk of stomach cancer, is also found in this group.
Purple and Blue Fruits and Vegetables
This group includes foods such as purple cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, black grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, prunes and figs. Anthocyanins, phenolics, resveratrol may reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease, as well as improve memory and promote healthy aging.