Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and tubers all come in a wide range of colors. The elements that paint our produce with vibrant reds, yellows, purples, and greens serve more purpose than adding colors to our plates. They are responsible for many of the health benefits of produce. Read on to learn more about what the colors of your food mean for your health.
From deep red to soft pink, red hues show up in much of the produce we love. Two things create reds: Lycopene and anthocyanins. We’ll talk more about anthocyanins later, as lycopene takes center stage here in the reds.
Lycopene is probably best known for its cancer and heart disease fighting abilities. The pigment is rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants work like little soldiers within our systems, helping to prevent disease and heal damage caused by disease. Lycopene helps lower blood pressure, control cholesterol, and prevent hard arteries.
Tomatoes have the highest concentration of lycopene. You’ll find the greatest amount in pasta sauces, tomato soups and juices. If tomatoes and tomato products don’t please your palette, fear not. Sweet red peppers, watermelon, papaya, guava, and grapefruit also contain lycopene.
Orange and Yellow
Beta-carotene, a little lycopene, and some vitamin C make up the brightest of our produce. In this group, the fruits and vegetables with deep orange hues have the most beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A. The fruits and vegetables that lean more toward the yellow side of the spectrum have less vitamin A and more vitamin C than the orange ones.
The powers of vitamin A help with our vision, growth of bones, reproduction systems, and immune systems. Vitamin C boosts our immune systems, fights against cancers and heart disease, helps keep cholesterol in check, and aids our bodies in the absorption of other vitamins and minerals.
You’ll find loads of beta-carotene in carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and winter squash. Vitamin C is prominent in many fruits and vegetables as well. You’ll find it in citrus fruits, peppers, summer squashes, papayas and many other produce of various colors.
Blue and Purple
Dark and luscious, blue and purple produce includes some of the most powerful super foods. Remember the anthocyanins mentioned briefly in the red food section? Well, those are also what give produce blue and purple colors.
These pigments are amazing disease fighting, immunity enhancing brain boosters. Scientists and doctors credit anthocyanins for having many benefits. They help our bodies with memory function, eyesight, motor function, as well as disease and cancer prevention and eradication.
More good news: no matter your taste, you’re sure to find something purple or blue you’ll like. Foods high in anthocyanins include berries (blueberries, acai, raspberries, blackberries, bilberries), cherries, black currant, red grapes, purple corn, and red cabbage.
Chlorophyll gives our greens their color. And with it often comes lutein and folate (folic acid). Lutein is a pigmented vitamin that does wonders for eyesight. Doctors believe it helps prevent eye diseases, including those caused by aging. Folate is important in helping our bodies produce new, healthy cells. As with other nutrients, lutein and folate both play important roles in cancer prevention and fighting.
You’ll find lutein in dark greens such as spinach, broccoli, zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers. Folate shows up in numerous foods including leafy vegetables like spinach, turnip greens, kale, and romaine lettuce.
We all know the importance of including plenty of fruits and vegetables in our everyday diets. The amazing benefits of these foods help our bodies function, fight, and thrive. No matter which colors you choose to put on your plate, you’re doing your body a favor!