There's no question that eating three to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily will improve your health. But more and more experts are saying healthy eating is not only about how many servings you eat. It's about the variety you pick, too.
Eat a diet of solely white foods, and you'll miss key nutrients your body needs—even if your palette includes cauliflower, onions, and mushrooms. Adding a multivitamin doesn't cut it either. "People will say, 'I'm taking a multivitamin, so I don't really need to eat these,” but scientists don't know whether whole foods may offer undiscovered benefits that vitamins don't. "We do know for sure that if you don't eat your fruits and vegetables, you're not getting your fiber, and that’s your blood sugar down."
Eat a rainbow
Fruit and vegetables fall into five different color categories: red, purple/blue, orange, green and white/brown. Each color carries its own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called phytochemicals. It is these phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant color and of course some of their healthy properties.
Each color in fruits and vegetables is caused by specific Phyto-nutrients, which are natural chemicals that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun’s harmful rays, and other threats. And each color indicates an abundance of specific nutrients.
Red fruits and vegetables are colored by a natural plant pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of cancer and keep our heart healthy.
The plant pigment anthocyanin is what gives blue/purple fruits and vegetables their distinctive color. Anthocyanin also has antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage and can help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Carotenoids give this group their vibrant color. A well-known carotenoid called Beta-carotene is found in sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots. It is converted to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes. Another carotenoid called lutein is stored in the eye and has been found to prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
Green vegetables contain a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids, indoles and saponins, all of which have anti-cancer properties. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are also excellent sources of folate.
White fruits and vegetables contain a range of health-promoting phytochemicals such as allicin (found in garlic) which is known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some members of the white group, such as bananas and potatoes, are also a good source of potassium.
Create your own Fruit and Vegetable Rainbow
A great way to keep track of the colors that children eat each day is to create a fruit and vegetable rainbow poster. Every time the children eat a colorful fruit and vegetable, they can place a corresponding colored sticker on the rainbow or get them to color in a small section on the rainbow. This is also a great activity that parents can do with their children at home.
Create a Rainbow on Your Plate
Make a tropical rainbow fruit salad with fruits of each color: oranges, strawberries, mango, rock melon, kiwifruit, bananas, and blueberries. Stir fry your own mix of vegetables using each color: red onions, carrots, baby corn, broccoli and mushrooms.
When looking to boost your iron levels, go for the green. Spinach, for example, has 3.2 milligrams per one-half cup. Peas, collard greens and lima beans are also good sources. Keep in mind that the iron in plants, called non-heme iron, is not as easily absorbed as that from animal sources; you may need to eat more iron-containing vegetables to obtain the same amount of iron as if you ate meat.
Blue and purple foods add interest to the color palate of your plate and also bring considerable nutritional value to the table. The blue compound that makes blueberries blue is a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin that may protect against cancer and heart disease. Oxidative stress is linked with a range of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and Parkinson's disease.
White vegetables may not seem as colorful as others, but they can be highly nutritious. Cauliflower and turnips contain rich amounts of compounds known as glycosylates, which may provide some protection against cancer. Garlic and onions contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which may play an important role in managing chronic inflammation. White beans are valuable sources of protein and fiber, as well as B-vitamins, potassium and iron.
The colors of produce come from the phytochemicals in plants reflecting light on the visible spectrum. This gives fruits and vegetables their color and provides health benefits that work together with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber of the food. Because the colors don't truly affect the nutrition label you'd see at the supermarket, you might not notice much of a difference. But the same food in different shades brings new antioxidants and occasionally a higher value of a vitamin or mineral.
Yes, eating a variety of colorful foods is good for your health. But how do you make that happen? Use these tips to create more colorful meals:
Fruits and vegetables have their distinctive color due to presence of Phytochemical of varied nature. Various nutrients are present in different quantities in various foods. You should ensure that your daily diet compromises of as many-colored fruits and vegetables to get a combination of the health effects.