Tired of counting calories? Some health experts are now proposing an alternative—counting colors.
The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their varied, luscious hues are associated with nutrients important for peak health. Eating a variety of colors helps ensure that we receive a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some common colors and their associated nutrients.
Some red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelons, derive their color from lycopene, an important antioxidant. Others, such as grapes and strawberries, receive their rosy hue from anthocyanins.
The red family of nutrients includes:
- Quercetin (a natural antioxidant and allergy fighter).
- Vitamin C.
This nutrient group contains important antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and tumors. Fruits and vegetables in the red family are associated with lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. They appear to have beneficial effects in arthritis patients.
Ready to eat your reds? Try the red varieties of some of these fruits and vegetables:
- Peppers (sweet or hot).
- Tomatoes (including sauce; cooking tomato sauce lowers vitamin C levels but enhances the absorption of lycopene).
Orange and Yellow
Nutrients commonly found in this color family include:
- Carotenoids, including beta carotene.
- Lutein (protects the eye from cataracts and macular degeneration).
- Vitamin C.
This group can be divided into two groups—citrus and everything else. Citrus does not boast the beta carotene levels of vegetables like carrots, but it is much higher in folate and vitamin C.
Not surprisingly, there are many antioxidants and immune boosters in this group. But there are more goodies that you will find here! The orange/yellow group promotes the building of bones and connective tissue, and it helps ensure healthy pH and blood sugar balances in the body. And, of course, the lutein and beta carotene in carrots and other orange produce will keep your eyes healthy by protecting them from cataracts, inflammation, and age-related degeneration.
Try some of the orange and yellow varieties of these plants:
- Squash (summer and winter).
- Sweet potatoes.
Green and Yellow-Green
That beautiful green color in fruits and vegetables comes from the pigment chlorophyll.
Here are some of the benefits of eating your greens:
- Beta carotene.
- Folic acid.
- Isothiocyanates (natural compounds that stimulate the liver to flush out carcinogens).
- Vitamin C.
- Vitamin K.
Note that this group can be subdivided into two categories—green crucifers (plants in the mustard family) and yellow-green noncrucifers. The crucifers are rich in isothiocyanates, while the noncrucifers supply an abundance of lutein.
This group boasts superb immune-boosting powers. And the high fiber levels associated with these plants will have a positive effect on your digestive system, as well.
Make sure some of these greens have a place on your plate from time to time:
- Brussels sprouts.
- Green beans.
- Green onions.
Next in series: Blue and white, plus menu tips