Summer is almost here, bringing an abundance of colorful fruits and veggies to your local grocery store and farmer’s market. The USDA recommends eating a variety of fruits and vegetables; variety usually refers to the types of fruits and veggies you eat, but you can also think of it as different colors. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of a number of vitamins and minerals, as well as compounds called “phytochemicals” that can help protect against things like heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. Filling your plate with a variety of colors is the best way to get a wide range of range of these nutrients in your diet. Here’s a quick snapshot of the phytochemicals and health benefits of each color group:
Red—The tomato’s bright red color comes from lycopene, an antioxidant that may help promote heart health and protect against some cancers (watermelon and grapefruit also good sources of lycopene). Red fruits and veggies like raspberries, cranberries, red peppers and beets are good sources of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that may also help protect against cancer as well as maintain healthy vision.
Orange/Yellow— Vitamin A is an important nutrient for maintaining healthy skin and eyes, and fighting infection. Fruits and vegetables in this group get their bright color from beta-carotene, a nutrient the body uses to make Vitamin A. Carrots are great sources of beta-carotene, as are apricots, sweet potatoes, mangos and squash.
Green—These fruits and veggies are good sources of lutein, an antioxidant that promotes healthy vision and may help protect against cardiovascular disease. Broccoli, kiwi, avocados and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are good choices from this group.
Blue/Purple—Also good sources of anthocyanins, fruits and veggies in this group may help with memory and protect against cancer. Look for blueberries, blackberries, raisins and eggplant.
White/Brown—Members of this color group, especially onions and garlic, contain properties that may help lower blood pressure and protect against cancer. Some other good choices from this group include cauliflower, mushrooms and bananas.
(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department. Photo Credit: Gabriel Del castillo)