5 Colors That Should Always Be on Your PlateArticle posted in: Diet & Nutrition
While most people know that it’s important to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, many don’t realize the importance of consuming a wide variety of these nutrient-filled foods. Eating the same foods all the time greatly limits your ability to get the mix of nutrients your body needs. One of the easiest ways to ramp up your nutrient intake is to make sure you “eat the rainbow.”
Fruits and vegetables get their vibrant colors from naturally occurring micronutrients, and each color indicates a different nutrient profile. That means that a piece of green produce dishes out different nutritional benefits than an orange one. Since every color has its own unique nutritional benefits, eating a variety will help you to maximize the overall benefits to your health. So, when you’re making up a plate, aim to have a variety of colors represented. Your ultimate goal would be to have at least half of your plate comprised of colorful fruits and veggies at every meal. But set a second goal: Try to mix up the produce you select at each meal or snack occasion.
Here are five of the color groups you should strive to include in your daily diet:
The natural plant pigment chlorophyll gives fruits and vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocado and kiwi their signature green hue. Green fruits and vegetables pack in vitamin K, folic acid and potassium, and are good for your eyes, bones and teeth. Vitamin K is also specifically helpful in allowing blood to clot properly, keeping your bones strong, and preventing the hardening of arteries, which can potentially prevent heart attacks.
It is the phytochemical lycopene that is responsible for the red color in fruits and veggies like tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon and pink grapefruit. Lycopene has been associated with a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and even certain eye disorders. When it comes to tomatoes, cooking actually enhances their phytochemical activity. As a result, cooked tomato sauces are actually associated with more benefits than raw tomatoes since the heat allows the lycopene to be more easily absorbed by the body.
The yellow/orange group is rich in beta carotene and vitamin C and includes fruits and vegetables like carrots, mangos, pumpkins, cantaloupe, winter squash, sweet potatoes and peppers. In the body, beta carotene converts into vitamin A, which is good for vision and eye health, healthy skin and an overall strong immune system. Beta carotene is also believed to help prevent memory loss and to protect the skin from sun damage.
A lack of color doesn’t always mean a lack of nutrients. In fact, the largest class of phytochemicals are the flavonoids which tend to be colorless. Flavanoids have been associated with reduced risk of a variety of diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s. White fruits and vegetables like pears, bananas, and cauliflower are also high in dietary fiber which not only helps prevent constipation but can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of diabetes.
Blue and purple vegetables offer a healthy dose of vitamin C, potassium and folate. The darker the hue in blue and purple fruits and vegetables, the higher the phytochemical concentration. Examples include eggplant, blueberries, pomegranates, blackberries and plums. Lesser known, but very tasty purple carrots, purple potatoes and purple cauliflower also fall into this category.