Most of us have probably heard “eat your vegetables” while growing up; maybe an emphasis was put on eating a variety in color as well. We know that these foods are full of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, but what other nutrients do they contain? Plants contain compounds called “phytochemicals” or “phytonutrients” that protect the plant from environmental damage. When we consume plants we absorb these powerful nutrients, which benefit our bodies as well.
Phytonutrients give fruit and vegetables their pigments; the color indicates the type of nutrient found in the plant. These pigments have high antioxidant capabilities and can slow the aging process. They slow or prevent cell damage from oxidation, protect against the risk of some cancers and heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis, UTIs and other illnesses.
Lets look at the different color categories and the phytonutrients contained in the fruits and vegetables of these colors:
Phytonutrients—lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, hesperidin, anthocyanidins Health Benefit—supports prostate, urinary tract and DNA health; protects against cancer and heart disease Found in—tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, red cabbage, raspberries, papaya, grapefruit, persimmon, chili powder, walnuts
Phytonutrients—alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta cryptoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin, hesperidin Health Benefit—supports eye health, immune function and growth and development Found in—carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, citrus fruit, corn, peaches, ginger, turmeric
Phytonutrients—allicin, quercetin, EGCG, indoles, glucosinolates Health Benefit—supports healthy bones, circulatory system and arterial function; fights heart disease and cancer Found in—onions, garlic, apples, coconut, green tea, black tea, parsnips, rutabaga
Phytonutrients—EGCG, lutein/zeaxanthin, isoflavones, indoles, isothiocynates, sulphoraphane Health Benefit—supports eye health, arterial function, lung health, gum health, liver function and cell health; aids in wound healing Found in—green and black tea, kale, spinach, chard, salad greens, collards, cabbage, broccoli, arugula, green beans and peas, Brussels sprouts, snap peas, legumes, and parsley
Phytonutrients—anthocyanidins, resveratrol, phenolics, flavonoids Health Benefit—supports heart, brain, bone, arteries and cognitive health; fights cancer and supports healthy aging Found in—blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, grapes, prunes/plums, beets, cranberries, cacao, purple potatoes
Grapefruit, Carrot & Ginger Juice
Yield: Serves 1
- 2 chopped grapefruits (peel and pith removed)
- 5 chopped carrots
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
Press grapefruits, carrots, and ginger through a juice extractor. Stir and serve immediately.
Spinach, Apple & Lemon Juice
Yield: Serves 1
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup kale
- 2 apples (like granny smith)
- 1 small fennel head
- 1 lemon (peel and pith removed)
Press spinach, kale, apples, fennel, and lemon through a juice extractor. Stir and serve immediately.