Colourful fruits and vegetables are not just simply artistry by nature. Their colour has a reason. Colours in fruits and vegetables are nature’s way of highlighting their nutritive value. Most fruits that are brightly coloured, owe their aesthetics to extremely healthy chemical compounds that they are loaded with.
The phytochemicals that most plants have are as nutritious, if not more, as the vitamins and fibre that plants boast of. These compounds help plants fight the risks due to harmful UV rays, while some even act as antioxidants as well. Antioxidants help in flushing out toxins that can cause extensive cell damage and trigger heart diseases, Alzheimer’s and even cancer, among other diseases.
The presence of these chemicals is highlighted in plants in bright colours, that allow other animals (man included) to identify them straight away. Perhaps that is how nature intended us to identify these natural disease fighters. Some of the best examples are tomatoes and berries. The anthocyanins that berries have, give them the blue colour and along with it the ability to keep your thinking processes sharp. The lycopene in tomatoes give them their bright red colour and is a great support in the fight with prostate cancer. The USDA (US department of Agriculture) suggests that orange, red and green are the colours that should primarily be on your plate, helping to prevent most chronic diseases like cancer and heart ailments.
So here is what should be on your plate on a daily and regular basis:
- Red fruits and vegetables help you fight prostate and breast cancers, the lycopene present in tomatoes and watermelon is a help. This chemical is also present in guavas, pink grapefruit and red peppers.
- Alpha and beta carotene impart the orange colour to carrots, and when they are a part of our diet, our body converts these phytochemicals into vitamin A. This is the nutrient, which our hair, eyes, bones and immune system really needs to keep healthy. Other foods that can be called beauty with “benefits” are apricots, mangoes, papayas, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tangerines and squash.
- The yellow and green vegetables and fruits are high on lutein and zeaxanthin, which are phytochemicals that accumulate in the eyes and help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people. Leafy greens are also rich in beta carotene. Ensure at least one helping of artichoke, corn, lettuce, mustard greens or spinach in every meal.
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages are rich in compounds called - indoles and isothiocyanates that can actually help fight cancer by pushing up detoxifying enzymes in the body.
- Anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, are compounds that ensure that your heart is healthy and your brain functions normally. Found abundantly in blue, purple and dark red fruits and vegetables, these chemicals are extremely good for organ detoxification. Eggplant, plums, cranberries, grapes, red radishes and berries like blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are very high in these phytonutrients, and should be a must for every diet.