As children and even as adults we are constantly told to eat our fruits and vegetables, and for good reason. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber that have been shown to be beneficial to our health. Diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce risk of heart disease, can lower blood pressure, help reduce the risk of certain types cancers, and can aide in weight loss or maintenance. For our children, diets high in fruits in vegetables are important for proper growth and development. Also, developing a liking for these foods at a young age can help increase the likelihood that your child will grow up to be an adult who consumes these healthy foods as well.
While it is important to get our 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, it is also important that these servings include the variety of the different colors that fruits and vegetables have to offer. The diverse colors provide different nutrients that are needed for growth, development, maintenance of health, and reduction of disease risk. Let’s take a look at the different colors and their sources:
The color found in red fruits and vegetables comes from the pigment lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant and carotenoid that has shown to reduce certain types of cancer. Carotenoids are converted to active vitamin A in the body, which is important for eye and skin health. These fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C and fiber. Vitamin C is important for immune function, growth and repair of tissue, and also functions as an antioxidant. Fiber plays a role in heart and gastrointestinal health.
Examples of red fruits: raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, red apples, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, grapefruit, pomegranates.
Examples of red vegetables: tomatoes, red peppers, beets, radishes, red onion, red potatoes, radicchio.
These foods are sources of beta-carotene, lycopene, potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Similar to lycopene, Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that gets converted to vitamin A in the body, thereby playing a role in eye and skin health. Potassium plays a major part in fluid balance within the body and muscle contractions. Diets high in potassium have a positive impact on blood pressure.
Examples of yellow/orange fruits: cantaloupe, mango, oranges, peaches, pineapple, lemon, apricots, yellow apple.
Examples of yellow/orange vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, yellow peppers, yellow summer squash, sweet corn.
Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives these fruits and vegetables their natural green color. Green fruits and vegetables are sources of vitamin K, folic acid, and potassium. Vitamin K has a few major roles in the body. It is required for the formation of blood clots and deficiency can result in hemorrhage. Vitamin K is also necessary for the production of proteins involved in bone formation. The folic acid found in green produce is important in fetal neural tube development and red blood cell production.
Examples of green fruits: avocado, green apple, green grapes, lime, kiwi, honeydew melon.
Examples of green vegetables: green pepper, spinach, zucchini, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, leafy greens, okra, arugula, peas, celery.
Anthocyanins are the antioxidants that give these fruits and vegetables their deep purple and blue color. These nutrients may play a role in reducing cancer risks and may have a positive impact on inflammation.
Examples of blue/purple fruits: blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple grapes, raisins, prunes.
Examples of blue/purple vegetables: eggplant, purple potatoes, purple carrots, black olives.
Garlic and onions found in this group contain allium, which has been shown to benefit heart health and lower blood pressure. Other fruits and vegetables in this group are sources of vitamin C, vitamin k, folate, potassium, and fiber.
Examples of white/tan/brown fruits: bananas, dates, white peaches, brown pears.
Examples of white/tan/brown vegetables: onion, garlic, cauliflower, ginger, mushrooms, potatoes, turnips, kohlrabi.