When speaking with others regarding eating patterns I tend to hear a lot of people mention one colour fruits or vegetables (mainly vegetables). You will hear many people just sticking to vegetables like broccoli or any other ‘green’ vegetable.
When food prepping, meal organizing or grocery shopping it is important to understand the the difference and significance between the colours of vegetables. I like to refer to the colours rather than the chemical composition names as it is simpler to understand and put into practice.
We can arrange fruits and vegetables into five colour groups; red, orange/yellow, green, white/brown and purple/blue. Each group has its own unique phytochemical (disease fighting chemical), these are what gives fruit and vegetables the vibrant colour and healthy composition.
RED: Tomato, Red Capsicum, Radish, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Cherries, Red Grapes, Raspberries, Watermelon, Red Apples. This group is coloured naturally by the pigment lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has shown to reduce the risk of cancer and help keep your heart healthy.
ORANGE/ YELLOW: Carrots, Rockmelon, Lemons, Sweet potato, Pumpkin, Pineapples , Mangoes, Corn, Oranges, Squash, Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Grapefruit. Carotenoids are what give the orange/ yellow fruits and vegetables their loud colour. You may of have heard of beta-carotenoid, this can be found in sweet potato (my favourite), pumpkins and carrots. Beta-carotene is a Provitamin for vitamin A, this means it is converted to vitamin A which helps maintain mucous membranes and your eyes. This group is also known for the carotenoid lutein, it is stord in the eye and has been shown to prevent cataracts.
GREEN: Spinach, Asparagus, Avocados, Broccoli, Peas, Green apples, Green grapes, Limes, Kiwifruit, Green beans, Lettuce, Cabbage, Celery, Cucumber, Green capsicum. Carotenoids, indoles and saponins are all phytochemicals which come from the array of green fruits and vegetables carrying anti-cancer properties. An excellent source of folate can also be found in leafy greens like kale, spinach and broccoli. You may of have also heard of chlorophyll which is found in leafy green vegetables, green olives, snow peas, broccoli and green capsicum. Chlorophyll has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties.
WHITE/BROWN: Cauliflower, Brown pears, Mushrooms, White peaches , Garlic, Bananas, Potatoes, Dates, Onions, Ginger, Parsnips, Turnip. In these fruits and vegetables you will find phytochemicals such as allicin (in garlic) which is known for antiviral and antibacterial properties, great for those flu fighting juices! Potassium is also found in members of the white group from foods such as bananas and potatoes.
BLUE/PURPLE: Beetroot, Redcabbage, Eggplant, Purple asparagus, Blackberries, Blueberries, Purple grapes, Plums. These vibrant fruits and vegetables get their colour from anthocyanin. Anthocyanin has great anti oxidant properties that protect cells from damage and help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
What are antioxidant properties?
There you go, a breakdown on what each colour represents. A common theme you will find throughout is that many of them have antioxidant and cancer fighting properties, but what does this mean?
For some time a possible mechanism in the development of cancer has been thought to be oxidative damage to cellular protein, lipids and DNA caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron in the outer shell causing the molecule to become unstable and highly reactive. Antioxidants may react with these oxygen free radicals by either transferring the unpaired electron, the excess energy being dissipated as heat or by bleaching of the carotenoid. Some antioxidants have been demonstrated to not only scavenge oxygen free radical species, but also interact with reactive oxygen species, in this manner protect cells from oxidative damage.
Hope that helped, if you have any questions please done hesitate to ask!