The pigments that give fruit and vegetables their colour are called phytochemicals. They occur naturally in plants which are thought to provide health benefits. Fruit and vegetables fall into five colour groups – Orange, purple, green, white and red. Through decades the mantra has been ‘eat your vegetables’ and now the modern day version is to simply ‘eat the rainbow’.
By thinking of food from a colour perspective, we are more likely to eat a wide range of different fruit and vegetables. We should all be eating more plant based food, pair this with eating seasonally and you’re on to a winner. But as long as your diet includes all colours of the rainbow, you have a better chance of good health. So what do the different colours mean for your health and wellness? Let’s find out.
Lyopene is what pigments red fruit and vegetables. It is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with reducing risk of certain types of cancers. It also offers protection against heart disease. These fruit and veg contain flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and carry antioxidant properties. Think strawberries, tomatoes, cherries, pomegranate, cranberries, watermelon, red pepper, red chillies, radishes and beetroot.
Carotenoids are what provide orange colouring. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A. A nutrient that helps with vision, immune function, skin and bone health. Orange foods also contain a high level of vitamin C, great for your immune system. Carrots, squash, oranges, pumpkin, tomatoes, mango, turmeric, red lentils and sweet potato all fall under the orange category.
When you see green, that’s down to chlorophyll. It contains a range of phytochemicals, these include carotenoids, indoles and saponins. All of which have cancer fighting properties. Leafy green vegetables are also an amazing source of folate, vitamin K, omega-3, potassium and fatty acids. You really are what you eat. Green is my favourite colour and I probably eat mostly from this colour section. Kale, cabbage, peas, broccoli, salad leaves. Along with cucumbers, edamame beans, avocado and herbs.
Anthocyanins are what pigment purple food groups. It’s researched that a large dose of anthocyanins have a beneficial effect on keeping the eyes and urinary tract healthy. They are also great for your cardiovascular system and have great cancer reducing benefits. You’ll be happy to know that blueberries, grapes, beetroot, plums and aubergine fall in this category. But you can also get purple carrot, potato and pea varieties. Red cabbage, red onions and radicchio are all part of the purple family too.
A lot of people might think that no colour equates to no health benefits, but that’s not the case with white food. Flavonoids are one of the largest groups of phytochemicals and they are colourless. Flavonoids help to keep free-radical damage in check. White foods are just as important as the other colours. Mushrooms, garlic, onions, potatoes, coconut, quinoa, kohlrabi, fennel, parsnips and cauliflower are all great white foods.