The new guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption have moved beyond just counting servings. Experts now recommend that you add a little pigment power to your daily meal plan. So if its optimum heal you’re after, make sure you get a full spectrum of deeply hued fruit and vegetables on your plate each day.
You were probably told you to “eat your greens”, but what about your reds, blues, oranges and yellows? The reason behind colourising the diet all has to do with specialized plant chemicals (called “phytochemicals”) that impart colour as well as flavour to fruits and vegetables. In plants, these chemicals also serve to protect them against the elements, but have also been found to exhibit amazing health benefits in humans when consumed in the diet.
Choose from the following colour groups regularly:
Indulging in reds and bright pinks is a great way of dosing up on the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Diets rich in lycopene have been shown to have a negative association with certain cancers, including lung, colon, liver and prostate. Red foods also help maintain a healthy heart and are great sources of vitamin C.
Sources: tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato sauce, chillis, red peppers, guavas, pink grapefruit, watermelon
Lycopene is heat activated and fat soluble, so cook your tomatoes in a little olive oil for maximum effect.
Deep reds and purples contain potent antioxidants called anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins, which are anti-inflammatory, fight cancer and improve circulation. Anthocyanins have also been studies for their ability to ward of age-related memory loss. Red/purple fruit and vegetables are also rich sources of vitamin C, folate, fibre and potassium.
Sources: eggplant, beetroot, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, bilberries, cherries, cranberries, plums, red grapes, red wine.
It’s the carotenoid pigment beta-carotene that gives certain fruits and vegetables their deep orange hue. This antioxidant has been extensively studied for its anti-cancer effect, and is particularly beneficial in preventing cancers of the lung and breast. It also helps protect the skin from sunburn and thereby helps to prevent skin cancer. Beta-carotene plays an additional role in enhancing the immune system. Orange fruit and vegetables are also high in folate, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Sources: carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet melon, pumpkin, butternut, mangoes.
Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables are most well renowned for their high vitamin C content. Vitamin C is a powerful cell protector and antioxidant. It also helps maintain healthy connective tissue and a strong immune system. The phytochemical beta cryptothanxin found in orange/yellow foods has been shown to reduce heart disease risk.
Sources: oranges, nectarines, naartjies, pineapples.
The caretenoid pigment lutein gives colour to yellow/green fruit and vegetables. Lutein is best known for its protective effects on vision. These foods are also good sources of folate, minerals and fibre and help maintain strong bones and teeth.
Sources: spinach, green and yellow peppers, green beans, yellow corn, turnip and mustard greens, kiwi fruit.
Green vegetables contain sulforaphane, isothiocyanate and indoles, all of which exhibit cancer-fighting properties. Studies have shown a negative association between green vegetable intake and cancers of the prostate, lung, breast and cervix. Chlorophyll, in green plants, helps oxygenate the blood and improve energy. Another phytochemical, glucosinolate, which imparts a bitter taste to green vegetables, is a powerful liver detoxifier. Green vegetables are also loaded with folate, minerals and fibre.
Sources: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, green algae, wheat grass.
White/green vegetables contain the phytochemical allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and protects cell membranes from cellular damage. It is also a powerful antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial and helps ward off infections.
Sources: onions, garlic, chives, leeks, mushrooms, celery
Cauliflower contains indoles and sulforaphanes, which help inhibit cancer growth.
Polyohenols, found in pears, green grapes and white wine may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.