The Health Benefits of Eating a Colorful Palette of Fruits and Vegetables

The rage about colorful meal preparation isn’t all about “aesthetics.” There is a proven link between the color and antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables. You probably know about the benefits of a plant-based diet, but you may wonder why it is important to eat fruits and vegetables of different colors. 

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are high in phytonutrients; natural bioactive compounds that promote good health. When you include fruits and vegetables of various colors in your diet, you are providing your body with different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it requires to boost your health and protect you from diseases. This article will shed more light on the health benefits of a colorful diet and how you can add more color to your plant-based diet.

Colors of Food and their Health Benefits 

Plant foods are different from artificially colored foods; their vibrant natural hues are a result of the phytochemicals they contain. Each color of plant has specific nutritional and health benefits. These benefits are a result of their phytochemicals and how they interact with your body when consumed. Below are the most common colors of plant foods and the nutrients they provide. 

Green Plant Foods (phytonutrients - indoles, isothiocyanates, glucosinolates, chlorophyll, and carotenoids)

Green fruits and vegetables contain lutein, isothiocyanates, and isoflavones which are very beneficial for maintaining healthy blood and bones. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help protect your eyes from harmful light rays and improve your skin tone. Carotenoids also act as antioxidants, they enhance your immune system and protect you from diseases. 

Liquid chlorophyll derived from spinach juice, broccoli, collard greens, and parsley is also known to provide a range of health benefits including preventing cancer, aiding weight loss, improving skin health, healing wounds, and boosting energy. 

Red and Pink Plant Foods (phytonutrients - lycopene, ellagic acid, and anthocyanins)

Red and pink-colored fruits and veggies contain phytonutrients such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and lycopene. Lycopene, which is responsible for the reddish hue, is a potent antioxidant with many health benefits. This phytonutrient improves heart health, protects the skin against sun damage, and prevents certain types of cancers. Lycopene is found in watermelons, red bell peppers, tomatoes, cranberries, and pink grapefruit. Ellagic acid and anthocyanins also act as antioxidants and can mitigate inflammation to protect against disease. Both phytonutrients are found in red-colored berries.

Orange and Yellow Plant Foods (phytonutrients - carotenoids and hesperidin)

Fruits and vegetables in orange and yellow hues mostly contain a carotenoid known as beta carotene. When consumed, the body converts beta-carotene to Vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a role in strengthening the immune system, healthy skin and mucous membranes, good vision, and eye health. Beta-carotene also helps prevent conditions like heart diseases, cancer, and cognitive decline. Foods rich in beta carotene include carrots, cantaloupes, yellow peppers, tangerines, and pumpkins.

Hesperidin is a bioflavonoid most commonly found in citrus fruits. This plant chemical is proven to aid wound healing and protect the skin against UV ray damage and skin cancer. Hesperidin also has anti-inflammation, antimicrobial, anti-cancer properties.

Blue and Purple Plant Foods (phytonutrients - anthocyanins and resveratrol)

Blue and purple plant foods are a rich source of anthocyanins and resveratrol. These phytonutrients are known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties. Anthocyanins and resveratrol may help prevent heart diseases, lower the risk of developing neurological disorders, improve brain function, and lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Plant foods such as eggplant, prunes, blueberries, and red cabbage are high in anthocyanins.

White and Brown Plant Foods (phytonutrients - sulforaphane, anthoxanthins, allicin, and quercetin)

Vegetables and herbs in this category may not have vibrant colors, but they contain unique plant compounds that can benefit your health. Garlic and onions contain the powerful cancer-fighting compounds quercetin and allicin. Anthoxanthins found in mushrooms and ginger has been found to reduce inflammation, reduce stroke risk, and promote heart health. Thanks to their sulforaphane content, cauliflower helps neutralize toxins, slow tumor growth, and regulate blood sugar.

Tips to Making Your Diet Colorful

Maintaining a color-rich diet requires effort. You are not just garnishing your meals with just a few shreds of vegetables but eating a variety of plant foods of different colors. Use these helpful tips to add more color to your daily meals.

  • While shopping for produce, be adventurous and open to trying new types of fruits and vegetables. 
  • Use recipes that require new types of ingredients.
  • Look for different colors of your favorite fruits and vegetables. 
  • Swap carbs with starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and corn.
  • Infuse more vegetables and fruits into your salad/smoothie.
  • Make a rainbow-colored dish and let the whole color spectrum inspire your meal prep.

The Bottom Line

Eating a colorful palette of plant-based meals is a great way to boost your immune system by ensuring that you get a variety of essential nutrients necessary for good health and vitality. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in colorful fruits and veggies may help lower your risk of developing chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and some types of cancer. 

If you want to enjoy the benefits of phytochemicals, don’t hesitate to add more colors to your plate. However, be mindful of the cooking process you use to prep your meals, most vegetables lose their nutrients during prolonged exposure to heat.