One of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy diet is to stick to balance and moderation. Even within the realm of vegetables, there is a huge variety of nutrients– luckily, the colors can give a clue to what their benefits are, just by looking at them. Phytochemicals are compounds that occur naturally in plant foods, and work synergistically with vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. These compounds tend to have distinct pigments, which make them easy to distinguish visually.
Red: Tomatoes, Strawberries, Red Peppers, Cherries, Watermelon
The red pigment in these plants comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer and heart attacks.
Orange/Yellow: Cantaloupe, Carrots, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Mango
Beta-carotene is the most common carotenoid, and can be converted to vitamin A in the body– a vitamin necessary for vision, immune function, as well as skin and bone health.
Green: Asparagus, Broccoli, Collards, Grapes, Green Beans
Isothiocyanates are what color your food (as well as grass and trees) green. The phytochemical has been associated with a reduced risk of various cancers. Many green fruits and vegetables also contain a second phytochemical called lutein, which helps with eye health and protects against age-related macular degeneration.
Blue/Purple: Eggplant, Beets, Blueberries, Plums, Figs
The blue and purple color comes primarily from anthocyanin, a phytochemical that’s said to be beneficial for your heart and blood pressure. Darker hues indicate a higher concentration of anthocyanin, and a nice rich color can tell you when the produce is ripe.
White: Ginger, Onion, Mushrooms, Yuca
Flavonoids– the largest class of phytochemicals– are not actually white, but colorless. They are powerful antioxidants that help prevent free radicals, which can be harmful to cells and tissues, from forming. These colorless compounds are also found in tea, red wine, and dark chocolate.