The Importance of a Colorful Diet
Tasting the rainbow does not have to be limited to skittles bite-sized candies. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to dabble in the different flavor of skittles candies every once in a while but when we think of colors of the rainbow we should also consider our diet. Color in candy usually indicates a flavor; however, when it comes to our diet color may mean a lot more than just the flavor that waits to splash your taste buds.
When it comes to our diet, both servings and variety are important. We look to servings to get an idea of the amount of fruits and vegetables people need based on their age, gender, and amount of physical activity. Variety is important in order to reap the spectrum of health benefits that many fruits and vegetables offer through their nutrient and phytochemical contents. Phytochemicals are substances that occur naturally only in plants and may provide health benefits beyond those that essential nutrients provide. A great and simple way to introduce variety into the diet is through color.
The prevailing phytochemical responsible for the red color in fruits and vegetables is lycopene. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant in the body working to protect cells against damage from the free radicals. Free radicals are formed when the body’s cells burn oxygen for energy. One of the many health benefits that lycopene is widely known for is protecting against cardiovascular diseases. Some examples of great sources of lycopene include watermelon, tomatoes (cooked more than raw), pink grapefruit, and beets.
The natural blue and purple pigment in food is primarily due to the water-soluble anthocyanin phytochemical. Anthocyanins also act as antioxidants in the body and protect cells from damage. They are known for maintaining healthy cardiovascular function and supporting memory function. Some examples of great sources of anthocyanins include blueberries, plums, raisins, figs, blackberries, purple grapes, and eggplants.
The natural plant pigment responsible for the green color in fruits and vegetables is chlorophyll. This particular pigment allows plants to absorb energy from light to make their own food. Chlorophyll is known for many, many health benefits including reducing body odor, fighting free radicals, and increasing production of red blood cells. Some examples of great sources of chlorophyll include leafy greens, celery, cucumbers, green cabbage, artichokes, zucchini, broccoli, and pistachios.
Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables derive their color from the phytochemical called carotenoids. Carotenoids are widely known for the aid in helping to maintain health mucus membranes and healthy eyes due to the conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A. Some examples of great sources of carotenoids include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, papaya, yellow squash, yellow peppers, pineapple, and butternut squash.
Anthoxanthins are the phytochemicals responsible for the white pigment of fruits and vegetables. A health benefit associated with many white fruits and vegetables is lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol. Some examples of great sources of anthoxanthins include onions, garlic, white potatoes, ginger, cauliflower, turnip, mushrooms, and jicama.
The idea here is not to just focus on one color but to try to get a range of fruits and vegetables in varying colors to help ensure that you get the benefits of them all. Keep in mind that just because a fruit or vegetable is only one color it does not limit its heath benefit properties to one phytochemical class. Foods contain multiple phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, and many other phytochemicals. If it has been challenging for you to incorporate more colors into your diet or you are interested in learning more contact Balanced Healing of Jacksonville.
Elena Alisma, ND