I have always liked filling my shopping basket with an assortment of colours when doing my fruit and vegetable shopping. Not just because it makes my fridge look impressively colourful, though it does, but also because of the nutritional benefits to be gained from eating a naturally colourful meal.
More often than not, the different colours found in different fruits and vegetables are indications of the different nutrients that they will provide you with. You probably remember as a child being told to eat your greens? Well what about the yellows, reds, purples or any of the other colours?
The chemicals that provide the plants with these different colours, as well as the different smells and tastes, are called phytochemicals. It is these phytochemicals that also hold the key to a variety of different nutrients.
Reds: Fruits and vegetables that contain reds in them usually contain nutrients such as hesperidin, quercetin, ellagic acid, as well as a pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which fights cell mutation. There are many red foods that contain these, including capsicum, tomatoes, chilli’s, red apples and raspberries.
Yellow and Orange: Fruits and vegetables that come in a yellow or orange colour contain nutrients such as lycopene, potassium, flavonoids, and vitamin C. Some also contain beta-carotene which provides a vibrant orange colour and help promote eye health (this is why they say eating carrots helps improve your night vision!). Examples of yellow and orange foods include carrots, pumpkin, yellow capsicum, squash, lemons and pineapple.
Purple and Blue: Fruits and vegetables that have a blue or purple colour to them often contain nutrients such as ellagic acid, vitamin C, quercetin, lutein, fiber and zeaxanthin. What gives these foods their unusual colour is a pigment called anthocyanin which holds antioxidants that are said to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Examples of foods with these colours include eggplant, beetroot, blueberries and plums.
Green: There are many fruits and vegetables that come in shades of green and it is these foods that contain nutrients including, chlorophyll, folate, calcium, fibre, vitamin C, carotenoids and saponins. These are believed to help prevent cell mutations which means they have anti-cancer properties. Types of green foods include, spinach, kale, broccoli, avocados, peas, cucumbers and kiwifruit.
White/Grey and brown: Though these foods might seem a little ‘colourless’ there are still many nutrients that are available in fruit and vegetables that come in these colours, especially ones that are said to boost immune function, such as lignans. Examples of foods in these colours include, garlic, onion, mushrooms, ginger, cauliflower, banana, and golden pears.
So when you do your next shop, notice the different colours you are using and try to make your shopping basket as colourful as possible!