Eat and Drink the Rainbow: Colorful Fruits and Veggies Signal Health Benefits

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With 5 recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies in your diet, you have plenty of chances to enjoy a wide variety of different colors and flavors in your daily meals. And the color of fruits and veggies isn’t just about looking pretty on a plate–looking at color for health, we can see that there is a correlation between the color of a food and the nutrients it contains. So when you eat and drink the rainbow, you can be sure you are getting a balanced diet filled with vitamins and minerals.

Here are a few vegetable and fruit nutrition facts about the different colors:

Red. Many red and pink fruits get their color from lycopene or anthocyanins. For example, red grapefruit and tomatoes contain lycopene, which is thought to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Strawberries and raspberries contain anthocyanins that support heart health.

Orange and Yellow. The most common source of orange pigment in food is beta-carotene. Carotenoids in general lower cholesterol and the body can also use them to create Vitamin A. Vitamin A is great for supporting eye health as you age. Interestingly, oranges don’t contain the most famous orange pigment! Instead, they are high in Vitamin C, which has its own benefits like boosting immune systems and reducing blood pressure.

Green. Green veggies like spinach, kale, green peppers, and celery contain lutein, an antioxidant that helps keep eyes healthy. Other green veggies like broccoli and cabbage contain compounds that may help protect against the development of cancer. Broccoli also is a good source of B vitamins that help prevent birth defects.

Blue and Purple. Anthocyanins from blueberries and blackberries give these fruits nutritional benefits as well as their dark blue or purple color. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Blueberries in particular have been linked with strengthening memory functions.

While it can be fun to try and eat or drink the rainbow, it’s not always practical to buy all these fresh fruits and veggies. The next best thing is to buy fruit cocktails that have a mix of fruits and colors already blended together. Fruit smoothies are even better, because they contain the whole fruit, so you benefit from the influence of colors from fruit pigments in the skin of the fruit as well as in the flesh of the fruit. For example, with a passion fruit cocktail or Nu Smoothie, you can get beta-carotene from the yellow fruit pulp and lycopene from reddish purple skin.

So next time you’re out shopping or planning a meal, be sure to remember the value of color for health!

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