Would you only wear black or white every day? Would you only watch one channel for the rest of your life? Well, then why would you limit the colors of your food? Making sure you have a rainbow on your plate doesn’t only look better, but it’s much healthier!If you think about it, most cheap, common foods are tan or beige. These are usually high in starches, fats, and sugar, and they’re usually much cheaper. They might fill us up for less money, but in the long run, you’re missing out on a ton of important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy.
The reason fruits and vegetables come in so many colors are because of substances called “phytochemicals.” These occur naturally only in plants, and they’re the reason these foods are so many different shades. Each color points to different benefits, and that’s why eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is so important.
Red/Orange/Yellow These foods are on the warmer end of the spectrum, and this is because of “carotenoids.” This includes “beta-carotene,” which becomes Vitamin A in your body, which helps support your immune system, bone growth, and healthy vision. In red foods, like tomatoes, the main phytochemical is “lycopene.” Not only will one cup of tomatoes provide almost all your daily Vitamin C and 25% of your Vitamin A, but they’re also a good source of potassium and iron. Other examples of foods in this group include carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, and yellow and orange peppers.
Green There are many phytochemicals in this group, such as potassium, dietary fiber, folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, iron, and calcium. The good news? You have just as many options for what to pick from the green fruits and veggies, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy, salad greens, and collard greens. A good tip is to pick greens that also have other colors, like Swiss chard, since you’ll also get the benefits of the other colors.
Blue/Purple Foods of these colors contain “flavonoids,” which help maintain brain function and blood flow. Healthy options include eggplant, cauliflower, turnips, purple potatoes, cabbage, asparagus, and purple carrots. A healthy tip is that some darker greens, like kale, may also be purple. In the case of kale, one cup provides all your daily Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, while also being a good source of calcium and potassium.
White You might think this is more of a non-color, but white foods, like milk, yogurt, and some types of cheese contain Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorous. This is important for healthy bones and even maintaining a healthy weight. Also, yogurt contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria. Probiotics can help with digestive health or support your immune system.D.J. Martino is a Grant Writing Assistant at Primary Health Network; he joined PHN in November 2012. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Thiel College and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Outside of work, D.J. enjoys gaming (video, tabletop, and cards) and hanging out with friends, and he is currently trying to publish his first fantasy fiction novel!