What Colors Are Your Fruits and Vegetables?

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March is National Nutrition month, a campaign created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

veggie-heartThe campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing good eating and physical activity habits. The theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which reminds us that every bite counts. This March, Health Plan of San Joaquin would like you to make every fruit and vegetable count.

According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should eat fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors. Different colors add different nutrients and have specific health benefits.

These bright colors make fruits and vegetables more desirable, as they brighten your kitchen table. Let us look at why color should play a role when making your next selection.

White fruits and vegetables are colored by the plant pigment anthoxanthin, which is known for the healthy chemical allicin. This healthy chemical lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, as well as being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral, promoting good health. Some plant foods in this group are high in potassium. Examples: Banana, cauliflower, garlic, onion, potato, white corn, white peach and mushroom

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are colored by the plant pigments anthocyanins. These cancer-fighting antioxidants protect against cancer, stroke, heart disease and improve urinary tract health and memory. Examples: Plum, pomegranate, eggplant, blackberry, blueberry, prune and purple cabbage

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are colored by the plant pigments carotenoids. Orange-toned fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene, which helps to maintain good vision, healthy mucous membranes and good immune function. Yellow-toned fruits and vegetables contain more vitamin C (another antioxidant) and the B vitamin folate. Examples: Many varieties of squash, cantaloupe, carrot, grapefruit, mango, papaya, persimmon and pineapple.

Red fruits and vegetables are colored by the plant pigments, lycopene or anthocyanins. Lycopene has cancer-fighting properties, especially prostate cancer in men. Anthocyanins provide antioxidants, which protect cells and protect against heart damage. Examples: Apple, tomato, strawberry, watermelon, beet, cherry, and radish.

Green fruits and vegetables are colored by chlorophyll. Dark greens like spinach, green peppers and cucumbers, contain lutein, which is important for vision health. Leafier greens tend to contain folate. Green vegetables also contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals to help in the prevention of certain types of cancer. Examples: Arugula, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, green bean, lettuce and honeydew melon.

Challenge yourself or family to eat five colorful fruits and vegetables a day. The days are not always sunny, but you can create a rainbow every day. Here are some fun activities that you can try –

  • Gradually transition to making sure half your plate is filled with colorful vegetables.
  • Pick a color theme of the week.
  • Have your kids keep a dairy or calendar of the colors they’ve tried.
  • At dinner time serve colorful fruit for dessert.
  • Have fun creating your rainbow. In March, celebrate a healthier you.

© Health Plan of San Joaquin, hpsj4.wpengine.com. Use with permission of HPSJ.

Posted on March 19th, 2017 and last modified on April 19th, 2017.