Why the colors of fruits and vegetables matter in your daily diet

Fruits and vegetables in different colors. Karina (Zhukovskaya/Pexels)


The varied colors we see in fruits and vegetables are more than just for looks. They’re like helpful signals, indicating that these foods are loaded with various phytochemicals, which are natural health boosters.

Phytochemicals, also called phytonutrients, are special compounds that are not nutrients like vitamins or minerals, but they are good for our health. The colors of fruits and veggies tell us what kinds of phytochemicals are inside, and each phytochemical does something special to help us stay healthy.

Red and pink: lycopene

Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment responsible for the rich red and pink colors in certain fruits and vegetables. Lycopene serves as a potent antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress and free radical damage in the body. It’s this unique property that renders red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelon, and guava.   

Ripe tomatoes are a good source of lycopene. (Thomas Martinsen/Unsplash)

Studies have shown that lycopene-rich diets are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. By including red and pink fruits in your daily meals, lycopene helps lower levels of bad cholesterol, improve blood vessel function, and support overall cardiovascular well-being.

Yellow and orange: beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid, a natural pigment responsible for the vibrant orange and yellow shades in fruits and vegetables. It is a precursor to vitamin A, a crucial nutrient that supports various aspects of health such as vision and immune function.

Carrots provide beta-carotene for better eyesight. (JACQUELINE BRANDWAYN/Unsplash)

Once consumed, the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining good vision, particularly in low-light conditions. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables like mangoes, carrots, and squash can potentially reduce the risk of age-related vision problems.

Green: chlorophyll and lutein

Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants their characteristic green color. It is also responsible for the ability of plants to convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. Chlorophyll has the potential to aid in detoxification by neutralizing and eliminating toxins from the body. Consuming green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and other leafy vegetables helps support the liver’s natural detoxifying function.

Green leafy vegetables can aid in body detoxification. (Alexander Schimmeck/Unsplash)

Lutein is another vital component of green produce, particularly leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens. This pigment, although masked by the dominant green of chlorophyll, holds a vital role in promoting eye health. Lutein serves as a natural filter, protecting the eyes from harmful high-energy light waves, such as blue light.

Blue and purple: anthocyanin

Anthocyanins are responsible for the blue, purple, and red hues in various plant foods. Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants, combating oxidative stress and neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells.  These compounds combat oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and promote a balanced inflammatory response. Fruits and vegetables rich in anthocyanins include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, purple grapes, eggplants, and red onions.

Mulberries are rich in anthocyanin. (Dmitry Bukhantsov/Unsplash)

White: allicin and quercetin

Allicin is a sulfur-containing compound found in white vegetables like garlic and onions. While not responsible for the color, its benefits are remarkable. Allicin is known for its antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties, offering a natural defense against infections.

Garlic is rich in allicin known for its antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties. (Shelley Pauls /Unsplash)

Quercetin is found in various white fruits and vegetables, including apples, onions, and pears. Quercetin is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a vital nutrient for combating oxidative stress.

Both allicin and quercetin offer heart-healthy benefits. Allicin’s potential to support cardiovascular health by aiding blood pressure regulation and promoting healthy blood vessels is complemented by quercetin’s antioxidant properties that contribute to heart protection.

Enhancing your overall well-being can be achieved by incorporating a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables into your dietary regimen. This idea highlights how maintaining a balanced and diverse diet can be achieved by enjoying the natural colors on your plate.

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