As children, we have all been lectured about eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. Perhaps your parents would not let you leave the dinner table until you finished all of your vegetables or your teacher taught you to “eat the rainbow”. However, why is consuming various colors of fruits and vegetables so beneficial? On top of the many vitamins and minerals fruits and vegetables contain, they also are rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are not essential nutrients; however, they have been show to ward off diseases such as cancer. Different colors of fruits and vegetables can be indicative of the types of phytochemicals they contain. Therefore, eating an array of fruits and vegetables will ensure consumption of different types of phytochemicals with diverse benefits. Here is a list of different phytochemicals and the fruits and vegetables they are in:
Lycopene is part of the carotenoid family and is found in red-colored fruits and vegetables. Evidence from scientific studies suggests that lycopene helps prevent lung, prostate, and stomach cancers. Like other carotenoids, lycopene is an antioxidant, meaning it can remove harmful free radicals from the body.
Here are some foods containing lycopene:
- Pink Grapefruit
Orange, Yellow, and Deep Green: Carotenoids
Carotenoids are a type of phytochemical most commonly found in orange and yellow fruits and dark green vegetables. They have antioxidant properties, and the body can convert carotenoids into vitamin A, which aids in immune function and eye health. Here are some foods containing carotenoids:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Collard Greens
Diverse Colors: Flavonoids
Like carotenoids, flavonoids are also antioxidants, and have been associated with lowered risk of breast and lung cancer. They are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which benefits cardiovascular health.
Here are some foods containing flavonoids:
- Romaine lettuce
- Garbanzo beans
Written by Amanda Venuto