Fruits, Vegetables, and Color: How Hue Will Change Your View On Health
Fruits and vegetables come in many sizes, shapes, and color. Based on your personal preference, some of them seem more appealing than others because of their taste, texture, and appearance. Regardless of how they appeal to you, they are healthiest when organically grown. But did you know that the color of fruits and vegetables hint what type of nutrients they have?
How color can affect your health
Creating a well-balanced vegetarian meal can be extremely difficult for first-timers but it remains a challenge for everyone else. Since meat and dairy products have to be avoided, vegetarians are constantly on the lookout for alternative food sources that provide the same nutrients. What many don’t realize is that you can look at the color of a fruit or vegetable to find out which nutrients it contains. That way, you can easily identify which ones to include in your diet or which ones you should eat more.
The nutrients found in fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables get their color from pigments. Besides determining color, these plant pigments actually represent certain nutrients.
* Red fruits and veggies are rich in anthocyanins, a nutrient better known as lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant and will help protect your body from free radicals which are not only damaging to the body but also increase your potential of developing cancer, heart problems, and other diseases. Examples of lycopene-rich sources are beets, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, pink grapefruits, radish, raspberries, red apples, red cabbage, red potatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon.
* Fruits and vegetables that are either yellow or orange contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants in their natural form but your body also converts them into vitamin A. Lycopene is still a carotenoid but fruits and vegetables with these hues usually have vitamin A precursors. In general, carotenoids improve health by strengthening your immune system and fighting illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupes, carrots, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapple, pumpkin, rutabagas, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tangerines, winter squash, yellow apples, yellow peppers, yellow tomatoes, and yellow watermelon are some of the fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids. The only exception to this rule is orange because it doesn’t contain carotenoids; just vitamin C and folate.
* Green is an indication that fruits and vegetables have chlorophyll. Some of them have lutein which is good for the eyes. Others contain indoles which protect the body from certain types of cancer. Leafy green vegetables in general are great sources of folate, a type of vitamin B that reduces birth defects in pregnant women and prevents memory loss due to aging. To benefit from these nutrients, eat artichokes, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, green apples, green beans, green cabbage, green grapes, green onions, green pepper, Honeydew melon, kiwi, lettuce, lime, peas, spinach, zucchini, and other green fruits and veggies.
* Like red-colored fruits and vegetables, those that have blue and purple hues contain anthocyanins. Blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, figs, Juneberries, plums, prunes, purple grapes, and raisins are excellent sources of anthocyanins.
* Although pale, white and fruit vegetables still have pigments called anthoxanthins. These nutrients promote health in different ways. For instance, the allicin found in garlic lowers blood pressure and cholesterol while bananas and potatoes contain potassium. Other sources of anthoxanthins are cauliflower, ginger, Jicama, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, and turnips.
* Black fruits and vegetables have the most antioxidants because of their extremely dark color. Examples of these foods are black rice, black beans, black lentils, blackberries, and black soybeans.
Anthocyanins, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and anthoxanthins aren’t the only nutrients found in fruits and vegetables of varying colors. Rather, they are components that merely determine their color and the added benefits they offer.
Are darker fruits and vegetables healthier?
Not necessarily. When belonging to the same family of color like strawberries and watermelon, it simply means that the strawberry has more anthocyanins than watermelon. This explains why it has a brighter red color. Remember that pigmentation is just one aspect of fruits and veggies because they can still contain other health-boosting nutrients. If we compare fruits and vegetables based on their color, a darker hue also doesn’t mean it’s healthier than a light-colored one. It’s just that they are “healthy” in their own unique ways. Now that you know what colors mean and how they can affect your health, incorporate foods from every color group in your diet. It is worth noting that this color scheme only works for fruits and vegetables. Also, don’t forget to go organic! Chemically-grown fruits and vegetables contain harmful chemicals that will accumulate in your body.