Food and Nutrition

What Different Colors Mean for Your Food

| by Mitzi Dulan

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables do more than make a beautiful dish; the colors are code for the nutrients packed within these foods. The colors are from a group of nutrients called carotenoids, which are substances that provide additional health benefits above the essential vitamins and minerals labeled on packages. Now that spring has arrived, start looking for colorful fresh food to add to your diet. You can use this guide to pinpoint the nutrient of the fruit or vegetable you chose!

Red= Lycopene
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that works in neutralizing free radicals in the body. If free radicals are left in the body, they attack important tissues causing serious damage, and this damage may lead to cancer or other adverse health effects. In addition, lycopene is an anti-inflammatory and anti-toxin. A few sources of lycopene are: tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and guava.

Green= Lutein
Lutein is another antioxidant and works to protect normal vision throughout life. Another benefit from lutein is skin protection from UV sun radiation. This radiation causes free radicals to form in the skin. Lutein is influential in stabilizing these free radicals to protect the skin from damage. Sources of luetin include: broccoli, kale, peas, and spinach.

Orange= Beta Carotene
Beta-carotene is a nutrient that prevents night blindness and skin disorders and protects against cancer by decreasing free radicals. Another interesting benefit from beta-carotene is in the formation of strong teeth and bones. You can get beta-carotene from carrots and sweet potatoes.

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By filling your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, you will be eating important phytochemicals and obtain important health benefits. Try to have at least two different colors from plant-based foods at each meal for optimal health outcomes!

Research assistance by Kaylee O’Connell.