In our quest to eat as healthily as possible, we’re often told to try and create colorful plates that contain as many different varieties of fruit and veg as we can. But why is the color of the fruit and vegetables we eat so important? Well, the natural compounds, called phytochemicals, which give fruit their color are also antioxidants that can protect against certain diseases. Eating colorful meals can help to ensure that you’re getting a diverse range of antioxidants to provide the greatest possible health boost.
So, what health benefits can you expect from different colors of fruit and veg? Here’s our quick guide.
Orange fruit and vegetables tend to be high in carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, and in fact, it is beta-carotene that gives orange fruit and vegetables their color. Beta-carotene, which is present in vegetables such as pumpkin, carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potato, is converted into vitamin A in the body and that helps us to maintain healthy eyesight. When it comes to orange fruit, that’s typically high in vitamin C but also nutrients like fiber and potassium too.
Lycopene is the bright red carotenoid hydrocarbon that gives red fruits their color. Lycopene has antioxidant properties that can help to protect against cardiovascular disease and has also been found to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. Studies have shown that lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when it’s cooked, so including foods such as tomatoes, carrots and red peppers in your meals, and eating fruits such as strawberries, watermelon, and grapefruit, can be beneficial.
We’ve all heard about the importance of eating our greens, and for good reason. It’s the pigment from chlorophyll that gives green foods their color, but vegetables like kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and pak choi are also rich in nutrients that include lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane and glucosinolate. There is evidence to suggest that these leafy greens can help to protect against blood vessel damage and certain cancers, as well as reducing the progression of eye disease and age-related macular degeneration.
Like orange fruit and veg, it is beta-carotene that gives yellow varieties their color. However, as well as beta carotene, yellow fruit, and vegetables such as sweetcorn, yellow peppers and papaya are also rich in the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin. That can help to reduce the risk of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers.
How to get your five-a-day
Recent studies have found that five portions of fruit and vegetables are really at the lower end of what you should be eating every day. However, eating that much fruit and veg can seem like an uphill battle. In many workplaces, you can start totting up your five-a-day at your desk. Some employers even use a fruit supplier like Fruitful Office to deliver fresh fruit directly to their workplaces. Cooking up a big batch of soup that’s filled with different colored fruit and veg is another easy way to get as many of the potential health benefits as you can.
How do you make sure you eat lots of different colored fruit and veg? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.