Are phytonutrients the key to better natural health?
Colourful fruits and vegetables look appealing and add interest to our plates, but they don’t just look good – they can actually help us to live longer too! Different coloured plant-based foods contain different phytonutrients - the substance that gives them their rich, vibrant colours and distinctive tastes and fragrances. Better still, phytonutrients are believed to be beneficial to human health (1).
What is the role of vitamins in the body?
Vitamins are the nutrients your body needs to be able to function properly and stay healthy. They perform hundreds of roles from supporting bones to healing wounds, boosting your immune system and helping to repair cellular damage (2). Phytonutrients are the plant-based substances that perform different functions according to their colour. So by ensuring that your plate has a range of different coloured fruits and vegetables, you’re giving your body access to as many health-boosting properties as possible.
Which fruits and vegetables contain the best quality vitamins?
Red = lycopene
Red fruits and vegetables are rich in the carotenoid lycopene. This has strong antioxidant properties that can prevent damage to your body from harmful free radicals.
What is lycopene found in? Tomatoes, apples, beetroots, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions, cranberries, raspberries
Orange and yellow = beta-cryptothanxin
A precursor of Vitamin A, beta-cryptothanxin is an essential nutrient needed for eyesight, growth, development and immune response (3). It also supports intracellular communication.
What is beta-cryptothanxin found in? Carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn
Green = sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles
Green fruits and vegetables are high in sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which are all antioxidants that can help protect your health.
What are sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles found in? Spinach, avocados, asparagus, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil) artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts
Blue and purple = anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are the powerful antioxidants found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables. They act as antioxidants and fight free radicals, as well as offering anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.
What are anthocyanins found in? Blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage
White and brown = allicin, quercetin and kaempferol
Though they may not be deemed as colourful as the rest, white and brown fruits and vegetables still deserve their place on your plate! Allicin can be found in garlic and can protect against high blood pressure and high cholesterol (4). Other white and brown fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol, which can reduce inflammation and boost the immune system(5).
What are allicin, quercetin and kaempferol found in? Garlic, onions, cauliflower, leeks, mushrooms, parsnips
As all of the coloured fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients that serve different functions, the key to ensuring great natural health is to be sure to eat a variety of colours. Remember that snacks count too, so eating an apple or some carrot sticks will count towards your efforts. The greater the variety of colours, the better your plate will look and the better the health benefits will be!
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