Eat a Colorful Variety of Fruits and Vegetables Every Day for Better Health

Families, Food and Fitness November 18, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

When eating fruits and vegetables, think COLOR ─ green, orange, red, purple, and white. These colors in fruits and vegetables provide an array of vitamins and particularly "phytochemicals." Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant compounds in fruits and vegetables that may have health-promoting abilities.

Usually, the deeper the color of the fruits or vegetables, the better. Sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, and other dark orange and dark leafy green vegetables are good sources of the phytochemical "beta-carotene." This nutrient is important for vision and immune function.

basket of fruits and vegetables

Blueberries are a powerhouse of nutrients. The main phytochemical in the blue family of fruits and vegetables, such as blackberries, plums, cranberries, red onions, and strawberries, is "anthocyanidins." Anthocyanidins are antioxidants that have been linked to improved blood vessel health.

The cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, contain the phytochemicals "indoles" and "isothiocyanates" that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

Our eyes need nutrients too. "Zeaxanthin," a carotenoid with antioxidant power, is most often linked with lutein. Zeaxanthin may help to prevent macular degeneration. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens to keep your eyes healthy.

Our diet can benefit from eating a variety of red fruits and vegetables that contain "lycopene." Lycopene is a strong antioxidant and has been associated with a reduced risk for many cancers, especially prostate cancer. Research shows benefits for heart health too. Eat plenty of raw and cooked tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and red peppers.

Those tiny grapes hold a powerful antioxidant called "resveratrol." Resveratrol is most abundant in red wine, but the grapes themselves have many health benefits. Consume grapes with the skin and grape juice too.

For the most health benefits, consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors each day.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VIEW Color Yourself Healthy! Video


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.