What Color is Your Food?Got the blues? Not your mood, your food! While you’re at it, make sure you also have reds, yellows, and other bright colors on your plate- in other words a rainbow of foods. What does it mean to eat a rainbow? Choosing a variety of different-colored whole foods throughout the day and week.
The more naturally occurring colors on your plate at each meal or snack, the better. Here are some healthy reasons to eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Red fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called “lycopene” or “anthocyanins.” Lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, for example, may help reduce risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Lycopene in foods containing cooked tomatoes, such as spaghetti sauce, and a small amount of fat are absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes. Anthocyanins in strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and other fruits and vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Antioxidants are linked with keeping our hearts healthy, too.
Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural plant pigments called “carotenoids.” Beta-carotene in sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots is converted to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes. Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and can improve immune system function. Citrus fruits like oranges are not a good source of vitamin A. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and folate, a B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.
Green fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigment called “chlorophyll.” Some members of the green group, including spinach and other dark leafy greens, green peppers, peas, cucumber and celery, contain lutein. Lutein works with another chemical, zeaxanthin, found in corn, red peppers, oranges, grapes and egg yolks to help keep eyes healthy. Together, these chemicals may help reduce risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness if untreated. The “indoles” in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables may help protect against some types of cancer. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of folate, a B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.
Blue/purple fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called “anthocyanins.” Anthocyanins in blueberries, grapes and raisins act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. They may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called “anthoxanthins.” They may contain health-promoting chemicals such as allicin, which may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. Some members of the white group, such as bananas and potatoes, are good sources of the mineral potassium.
Source: What Color Is Your Food? North Dakota State University Extension Service