Let’s look at why it’s important for us to eat a range of different coloured fruit and vegetables.
Different fruit and vegetables make our plate look more enticing and interesting. Chefs use different coloured foods to creatively to produce beautiful and artistically pleasing gastronomy. But more than this, each natural food colour represents different health-promoting nutrients, or phytonutrients. “Phyto” means “plant” in Greek. More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods, which help you to remain healthy and avoid getting sick. The greater variety of colours on your plate, the broader the range of phytonutrients you are benefitting from.
Red Fruit and Vegetables
Lycopene is found in high concentrations in tomatoes. It is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease1, lowering oxidative stress and development of cancer2. The health benefits of eating cooked tomatoes are greater than supplementing lycopene alone.
Other foods rich in lycopene include: watermelon, apricots and pink guava.
Anthocyanins are strong antioxidants. Other chemical properties may be responsible for their beneficial impact on obesity control, diabetes, cardiovascular disease4 and improvement of brain and eye function3. Anthocyanins have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-microbial4.
Foods rich in anthocyanins include: raspberries, red cherries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, red currant, red cabbage and the widely promoted ‘superfood’ acai berry.
Orange and Yellow fruit and vegetables
Orange and yellow foods rich in carotenoids include: oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash
The orange in carrots indicates the presence of carotenoids: beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidants that helps protect our body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury and maintain good eye health.
Blue Fruit and Vegetables
Blue / purple foods include: aubergine, beetroot, blueberries, blackberries, black cherries, black raspberries, black currants, plums, elderberries, figs, raisins, and pomegranates.
The blue in your blue and blackberries indicates anthocyanins and resveratrol a phytonutrient associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, as well as cancer protection and anti-aging properties. It is rich in the skin of black or deep purple grapes and red wine5.
White Fruit and Vegetables
White vegetables especially garlic, onions, leeks and shallots contain a potent phytonutrient called allicin. Allicin is responsible for the intense flavour of these vegetables and for many of their health benefits. Garlic is a well known anti-microbial food; it has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. It is recommended for cardiovascular health and improved immunity6. The combined chemicals in onions are reported to have anti-inflammatory properties and to lower risk of blood clotting7.
We want the foods we eat to contain endless complex nutrients and provide us with our daily vitamin and mineral requirements. Ideally, we want to aim to eat a minimum of five portions of vegetables and two pieces of fruit a day to obtain a good range of nutrients. That’s potentially a lot of colours! Also plenty of healthy fibre.
- Bohm V, 2012, Lycopene and heart health, Molecular Nutritoin and Food Research, 56:296-303
- Basu A, Imrhan V, 2007, Tomatoes versus lycopene in oxidative stress and carcinogenesis: conclusions from clinical trials, European Journal of Nutrition, 61:295-303
- Devi PS, Kumar MS, Das SM, 2012, DAN Damage Protecting Activity and Free Radical Scavenging Activity of Anthocyanins from Red Sorgham (Sorghum Bicolor) Bran, Biotechnology Research International, Epub
- Mazza GJ, 2007, Anthocyanins and heart health, Annalli dello’Instituto Super Sanito, 43:369-374
- Kalantari H, Das DK, 2010, Physiological effects of Resveratrol, Biofactors, 36:401-406
- Rahman MS, Allicin and other Functional Active Components in Garlic: Health Benefits and Bioavailability, International Journal of Food Properties, 10:245-268
- Griffiths G, Trueman L, Crowther T, Thomas B, Smith B, 2002, Onions – A global benefit to health, Phytotherapy Research, 16:603-615