Eat the Rainbow for Optimal Health!
Farmers' markets are starting to open (yay!!!) and as we head over to fill our baskets with local fruits, vegetables, hearty breads, local meats, and a whole lot of other fantastic things … take a look around you. Do you notice all the colors that are showcased at the farmers' market? We’ve been told to eat our vegetables, but what about eating your colors? Eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruits is essential to your health and preventing a lot of diseases. Why? Phytonutrients. In plants, they give each vegetable/fruit its distinct color and taste and protect against pests and environmental stressors such as excessive sun. In humans, these natural compounds are components of plants that stimulate enzymes helping the body get rid of toxins, boost the immune system, help improve cardiovascular health and stimulate the death of cancer cells. Enjoying colorful meals is not only eye-pleasing, but it's good for your health!
Introducing the Phytonutrient Spectrum! Phytonutrients in food come in all different colors—green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple, and white – and this chart showcases these different foods along with their colors as sort of a checklist! You can download it here!
To get a better understanding of the health benefits of each of these colorful powerhouses take a look below to read each color and its corresponding health benefits, along with which produce it can be found.
(Information taken from Harvard Health Publishing)
Red: Rich in the carotenoid lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to protect against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease.
Found in: strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions
Orange and yellow: Provide beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.
Found in: carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn
Green: These foods are rich in cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds).
Found in: spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)
Blue and purple: Have powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots.
Found in: blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage
White and brown: The onion family contains allicin, which has anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol.
Found in: onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms
When shopping for fruits and vegetables consider the EWG Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen as a guide as to what to purchase organic and what is okay not to purchase organic. Also, consider your farmers' market and where the produce is coming from. If you know how your farmer grows their food, it’s okay to not purchase organic if you know it's grown sustainably without pesticides.
Enjoy the farmers market and eating your colors!