Eat By the Colors

We’ve All Heard “Paint By The Numbers”, But What Is Meant By “Eat By The Colors”?

Imagine going through your life only eating beige food… day in and day out… not only would it get boring, but you’d also soon realize that your food was not providing you with many phytochemicals that have health benefits. In fact, each color of fruit or vegetable provides a different family of healthy chemistry. Fresh food is divided today in 7 groups by color.

Blue/Purple: The blue/purple hues in foods are due primarily to their anthocyanin content. The darker the blue hue, the higher the phytochemical concentration in the food. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that are particularly heart healthy and may help support healthy blood pressure. These fruits with their distinctive colors may help ward off heart disease by preventing clot formation. They may also help lower risk of cancer. Examples: eggplant (skin), blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, and pomegranates.


Green: The natural plant pigment chlorophyll colors green fruits and vegetables. “In our system, the green foods represented those foods rich in isothiocyanates, which induce enzymes in the liver that assist the body in removing potentially carcinogenic compounds,” says Bowerman, author of “What Color Is Your Diet”. Experts agree that cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cabbage contain the phytochemicals indoles and isothiocyanates, which may have anticancer properties. Green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, as well as carotenoids. Folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy, and vitamin K is essential in blood clot formation. Diets high in potassium are associated with lowering blood pressure, and there is an inverse relationship between cruciferous vegetables and cancer, especially colon and bladder cancers. In addition, sulforaphane, a phytochemical present in cruciferous vegetables, was found to detoxify cancer-causing chemicals before they do damage to the body.  Examples: Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale, and chard.


What Are Some of The Other Colors That Are Important?

Yellow/Green: A variation of the green color category, these foods exhibit a richness in lutein. Lutein is particularly beneficial for eye health. There are lutein receptors in the macula of the eye, and lutein helps protect against age-related macular degeneration. There is lutein in the green skin around the nut. Yellow-green foods also contain a high amount of vitamin C. Examples: Avocado, kiwi, spinach, pistachios and other green leafy vegetables.

Red: Lycopene is the predominant pigment in reddish fruits and veggies. A carotenoid, lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with a reduced risk of some cancers, especially prostate cancer, and protection against heart attacks. cooking enhances the activity of some phytochemicals, such as lycopene. In addition to vitamin C and folate, red fruits and vegetables are also sources of flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties. Examples: Tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, and cranberries.

Yellow/Orange: The orange/yellow group represents beta-cryptoxanthin and vitamin C. The orange group foods are also rich in beta-carotene, which are particularly good antioxidants. Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene are all orange-friendly carotenoids and can be converted in the body to vitamin A, a nutrient integral for vision and immune function, as well as skin and bone health. These foods are commonly considered the eyesight foods because they contain vitamin A. Beta-carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A, is a component of these foods as well. In addition, they may have high levels of vitamin C, and some contain omega-3 fatty acids. Since eyesight is dependent on the presence of vitamin A, it is considered the “vision vitamin. Other phytochemicals typically found in yellow/orange fruits and vegetables protect our eyes from cataracts and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also help with blood sugar regulation. The beta-carotenes in some orange fruits and vegetables may also play a part in preventing cancer, particularly of the lung, esophagus, and stomach. They may also reduce the risk of heart disease and improve immune function. Examples: Carrots, mango, cantaloupe, winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and apricots.

Each day as you plan your meals try to include as many different colors of fresh foods into your diet. Every color benefits your health in one way or another.


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