Why are fruits and vegetables in different colors?
“The color of fruits and vegetables is an important indicator of their nutrient content and their underlying health benefits,” says Dr. Sumathi Venkatesh, a Health Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Each color implies specific phytonutrients present in them. Phytonutrients are natural compounds produced by plants that are present in foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. A few notable phytonutrients that we get from these foods are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, resveratrol, anthocyanins and isoflavones. Phytonutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming a diet rich in phytonutrients will improve blood circulation and heart health, promote bone and joint health, and strengthen the immune system to fight against infections and diseases.
There are five main color groups:
- e.g., tomatoes, pink grapefruit, red peppers, watermelon, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, cherries, red cabbage, apples, beets, red grapes and red onions.
- e.g., carrots, yellow pears, yellow peppers, corn, winter squash, sweet potatoes, oranges, peaches, cantaloupe and apricots.
- e.g., asparagus, zucchini, artichokes, broccoli, avocado, green peppers, green beans, spinach, kale, kiwi, brussels sprouts, cabbage, green tea and green herbs.
- e.g., eggplant, purple cabbage, black beans, blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, plums, prunes, figs and raisins.
- e.g., cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnip, radish, garlic, leeks, black-eyed peas and bananas.
Include a variety of colored fruits and vegetables in your diet:
For a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables including dark green, red-orange, beans, peas, lentils, starchy vegetables and other vegetables. Simply fill half your plate with colored fruits and vegetables in fresh, frozen, canned and dried forms to meet your daily recommended amounts. Try not to peel fruits and vegetables that have edible skin because the skin is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. While preparing your shopping list, try to include at least one fruit and one vegetable from each color. Eating home-cooked meals as often as possible will allow you to cut your food cost and choose healthy ingredients for your meals. Check out www.dinnertonight.org to learn more on health and nutrition, and for useful tips on healthy recipes, meal planning, freezing leftovers and food safety. For more information on Texas A&M AgriLife Extension health and nutrition programs, contact Gayle Bludau at the Victoria County Extension Office at 361-575-4581.