Fruits and vegetables are full of phytochemicals, which are chemicals that come from plants and provide color to the food. There are more than 12,000 phytochemicals in nature, and eating fruits and vegetables, rather than using supplements, is the best way to make sure you are getting enough of them in your diet. Each color food has a different type of phytochemical that helps your immune system function properly. The people who eat the most vegetables and fruits have the lowest risk for chronic diseases.
We are going to use the rainbow's help to show the benefits of nature's foods. Since the same chemical gives the food its color, typically the foods of that color have many of the same healthful components.
You will notice that some of the benefits and some of the colors overlap, so don't be too stringent on getting one of each color. Just eat a great variety. Also, fruits and vegetables do not have just one vitamin, as we commonly believe. They are a mix of several vitamins and minerals.
The phytochemicals in red foods are carotenoids and anthocyanins. One of the most abundant carotenoid is lycopene. Lycopene helps reduce damage from free radicals in your body and it also prevents heart disease, cancer, prostrate problems, and reduces the skin damage from the sun. These red foods help memory function, urinary tract health, and makes your heart healthy.
Red apples, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, pink/red grapes, red pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, red beets, red pepper, red cabbages, radishes, radicchio, red onions, rhubarb, guava, tomatoes.
Carotenoids are the powerful phytochemical in orange foods, and they are what give the foods their color. Carotenoids repair DNA and help prevent cancer and heart disease, as well as strengthening our vision. These orange foods also give us the right amount of vitamin A, which keeps our eyes and skin healthy, and protects against infections. They are also known to boost the immune system. Some of these also cross over with the health benefits of the yellow foods below.
Apricots, cantaloupes, chesa, mango, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, persimmon, tangerines, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes.
Yellow foods are high in antioxidants like vitamin C. Vitamin C keeps our teeth and gums healthy, helps to heal cuts, improves the mucus membranes (like when we have colds), helps to absorb iron, prevents inflammation, improves circulation, and therefore prevents heart disease. Some of the darker ones also cross over with the health benefits of orange foods.
Yellow apples, yellow figs, lemons, yellow kiwi, yellow pears, pineapples, yellow watermelons, yellow beets, yellow figs, yellow potatoes, jack fruit, turnips, summer squash, yellow corn, yellow beets, yellow pepper, winter squash.
Green foods have the phytochemicals sulforaphane and indoles, which both prevent cancer. They are also good for the circulatory system and have good vitamin B and minerals. Green vegetables also help with vision, and with maintaining strong bones and teeth. Some of the yellower green vegetables have carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin that help to prevent cataracts and eye disease, as well as osteoporosis.
Avocado/alligator pear, green apples, lemon, calamansi, green grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi, starfruit, limes, green pears, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, green beans, cabbage, swamp cabbage/kangkong, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, celery, Belgian endive, kale, lettuce, moringa/malungay, okra, snow peas, sugar snap peas, spinach, jute/saluyot, watercress, zucchini, collard and other green.
The strong phytochemical in these whitish/greenish vegetables is called allicin, and it is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral chemical. Some white foods prevent cancer and heart disease, and lower cholesterol levels. Celery is often dubbed as a useless vegetable because it has no calories, but it does have minerals like good sodium that help keep the joints healthy. Also, the selenium in mushrooms is healthy as well. This group helps maintain low cholesterol levels in your body as well as a healthy heart.
Bananas, white pear, dates, white nectarines, white peaches, cauliflower, chives, garlic, green onions, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, shallots.
The blue, indigo, and violet foods are great for their anti-aging properties. These foods have tons of antioxidants, which are called anthocyanins and phenolics. They help improve circulation and prevent blood clots, so they are great for the heart and can help prevent heart disease. They are also known to help memory function and urinary tract health and to reduce free radical damage.
Blackberries, blueberries, black currants, bignay/isip, elderberries, figs, Java plums/duhat, purple grapes, plums, prunes, raisins, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, eggplant, purple carrots, purple pepper, purple kohlrabi, purple star apple/caimito murado.