The Colorful Truth About the Foods You Eat
"Eat your vegetables." How many times have you heard that piece of advice?
But there's much more. fresh fruits and vegetables also contain powerful chemical compounds that, while not essential to keep us alive, help protect our bodies from certain diseases.
Phytochemicals — nutritional armor for your body
Fruits, vegetables and other plant foods like whole grains, beans and nuts are made up of thousands of natural protective chemicals, called phytochemicals. Also called phytonutrients, these compounds shield plants from being harmed by germs, fungi, bugs and other threats.
Yet, their protective powers don't end there. When you consume them, phytochemicals can also help safeguard your health.
Available in a rainbow of colors
More than 25,000 phytochemicals have been identified in plant foods, and each produce item gets its color from specific phytochemicals. Here's a look at a rainbow assortment of fruits and vegetables, a few of the phytochemicals they contain, and the health benefits they can provide.
|Fruits and Vegetables||Phytochemicals||Health Benefits|
|Red — Tomatoes, red peppers, red onions, beets, cherries, watermelon, pomegranates||Lycopene and ellagic acid||Help fight cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, improve skin quality|
|Orange and yellow — Grapefruit, oranges, mangoes, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, carrots||Carotenoids (like beta-carotene) and hesperidin||Improve immune function, reduce the risk of heart disease, promote eye health|
|Green — Broccoli, kale, collard greens, asparagus, spinach, green beans, avocados, kiwi fruit||Lutein, isothiocyanates and isoflavones||Boost the immune system, help detoxify the body, restore energy and vitality|
|Blue and purple — Blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, eggplant, plums, prunes, figs||Anthocyanins and resveratrol||Fight cancer and unwanted inflammation|
|White and brown — Cauliflower, garlic, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, parsnips, daikon radish||Sulforaphane, allicin and quercetin||Protect against certain cancers and keep bones strong|
To get the most health benefits from phytochemicals, make a point to include a colorful array of fruits and vegetables into your meals every day.