When we see food of various colours lining up our plates, our appetites increased 1000%, well, perhaps not that drastic but honestly, we somehow feel good eating these rainbow of food.
As it turns out, our inclination towards colourful food(we are talking about natural food here, not those artificial coloured snacks or sweets!) may do us a lot of good as many of the naturally occuring chemicals (phytochemicals) responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their bright colours actually help keep us healthy and free from disease.
Fruits and vegetables contain hundreds of colourful phytochemicals that act antioxidants, which help to “mop up” potentially harmful molecules called free radicals before they get a chance to damage cells. As a result, antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables can help to protect against a whole host of problems, including heart disease, cancer, cataracts and even premature ageing.
But what health benefits that the colours are actually linked to? We examine 4 colour groups and list out the respective vegetables and fruits for your convenience :
Red fruits and vegetables are coloured by natural plant pigments called lycopene or anthocyanins. Lycopene such as those contained in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit may help reduce risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate and cervical cancer. However do note that lycopene in foods containing cooked tomatoes (like say, spaghetti sauce) and a small amount of fat are absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes.
The RED fruits and vegetables :
Orange or yellow fruits and vegetables are usually coloured by natural plant pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene in sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots is converted to Vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes.
One study found that people who ate a diet high in carotenoid-rich vegetables were 43% less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder common the elderly, which can lead to blindness.
Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce risk of cancer and heart disease, and can improve immune system function.
Carotenoids also may be good for your heart. In yet another study, it was discovered that men with high cholesterol who ate plenty of vegetable high in carotenoids had 36% lower chance of heart attack and death than their counterparts who shunned vegetables.
Citrus fruits like oranges, though not a good source of Vitamin A, are an excellent source of Vitamin C and folate, a type of B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.
The ORANGE/YELLOW fruits and vegetables :
This is probably the ‘official’ colour for vegetables 🙂 . The green colour on the green fruits and vegetables comes from a natural plant pigment called chlorophyll. Some members of the green group, including spinach and other dark leafy greens, green peppers, peas, cucumber and celery, contain lutein. Lutein works with another chemical, zeaxanthin, found in corn, red peppers, organges, grapes and egg yolks to help keep eyes healthy.
Working hand in hand, these chemicals may help reduce risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness if untreated.
The ‘indoles’ in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables may help protect against some types of cancer (broccoli, for example, may help prevent colon cancer). Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of folate, a type of B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.
The GREEN fruits and vegetables :
Blue or purple fruits vegetables are coloured by natural plant pigments called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins in blueberries, grapes and raisins act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. The may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Other studies have shown that eating more blueberries is linked with improved memory function and healthy ageing.
The BLUE/PURPLE fruits and vegetables
Colourful Food, Colourful Healthy Life!