Color Your Daily Diet with Fruits and Veggies

Health, Home & Family
on July 22, 2001

Red tomatoes, yellow squash, green broccoli, blueberriesthis rainbow of color leads to the best possible pot of gold: your good health.

Color, color, color is the rule to live by, says Gloria Stables, director of the National Cancer Institutes 5 a Day for Better Health program, which encourages Americans to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The more reds, oranges, greens, yellows, and blues you see on the plate, the more health-promoting properties you are getting.

Colorful fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients and vitamins that improve health, help you feel more energetic, and may reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Many contain antioxidants, which can slow age-related diseases. These diseases result when the body burns oxygen, causing cells to form byproducts called free radicals, which travel through cells, damaging them, and contributing to aging and other health problems.

Antioxidants, which protect cells by neutralizing the free radicals, occur both naturally in the body or are consumed through diet.

Follow this palette of color to better health:

  • Reds Deep reds or bright pinks found in strawberries and cherries add a powerful antioxidant called lycopene to your daily diet. Lycopene also is found in tomatoes, red and pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava and may reduce the risk of selected cancers, including prostate cancer.
  • Greens Your mother said, Eat your greens, but do you know why? Spinach, collards, kale, and broccoli have antioxidants that protect eyes and keep retinas strong. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and turnips may reduce the risk of cancerous tumors.
  • Oranges Sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots, and apricots contain beta carotene, an antioxidant that enhances the immune system. The orange group also is rich in vitamins C and E. Folate, a key cell-building nutrient usually found in leafy greens, also can be found in orange fruits and vegetables and is a vitamin B that may help prevent some birth defects.
  • Yellows Bright yellows contain many of the same perks as the orange group. Pineapple is rich with vitamin C, manganese, and the natural enzyme bromelain, which aids digestion. Corn, pears, and squash are high in fiber.
  • Blues/Purples The pigment in plums, eggplant, and blueberries help defend against harmful carcinogens. Blueberries, in particular, are rich in vitamin C and high in fiber and potassium.