Do you know the healthy meaning behind the color of fruits and vegetables?
If you're looking for a way to make your meals livelier and healthier, look no further than your grocery store or fruit and vegetable store. There you will find a rainbow of fruits and vegetables - from the lightest white to the brightest orange and the deepest purple. Fruits and vegetables, they keep us healthy and add variety, taste and texture to our diet. With so many colorful fruits and vegetables to choose from, and with so many ways to enjoy them, you'll find it's easy to create a "colorful" diet that is nutritious and delicious. The benefits are enormous. Yet, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of us don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. We should consume at least 400g every day to reap their health and nutritional benefits.
Put some healthy color in your shopping cart and on your plate
Do you know the meaning behind the healthy color of fruits and vegetables? Did you know that the different colors have different health benefits? The colors are often linked to the nutrients and phytochemicals (natural bioactive compounds) they contain (FAO, 2003).
Antioxidant properties that may reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Examples: beetroot, red cabbage, aubergine, blackberry, blueberry, purple grape, plum, passion fruit, ...
May help lower cancer risk and improve heart health. Examples: red pepper, radish, tomato, red apple, cherry, red grape, pink grapefruit, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, ...
Contains carotenoids that keep the eyes healthy. Examples: carrot, pumpkin, pumpkin, apricot, grapefruit, lemon, mango, melon, nectarine, orange, papaya, peach, pineapple, ...
Phytochemicals with antiviral and antibacterial properties and potassium. Examples: cauliflower, chives, garlic, ginger, leek, onion, banana, white peach, pear, ...
Phytochemicals with anticancer properties. Examples: asparagus, green beans, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, green pepper, cucumber, lettuce, peas, spinach, green apple, avocado, green grape, kiwi, lime, ...
Reach for the rainbow
Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow. Remember that color is king in fruits and vegetables, and the more variety the better. A few tips:
- Think in two. Try to eat two servings in the morning, two in the afternoon and two in the evening.
- When shopping, look at the color in your shopping cart. If you find that most of your choices are the same one or two colors, swap out a few to increase the colors in your cart.
- Create colorful menus. Start with a cup of vegetable soup, opt for an arugula or spinach salad with extra colorful vegetables, and round off your meal with fresh fruit for dessert and a soothing cup of green tea.
What are the benefits of eating enough fruits and vegetables?
Consuming enough (or even more than the recommended amounts) fruits and vegetables has many benefits:
The growth and development of children. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin A, calcium, iron and folic acid, which can promote good health, strengthen a child's immune system and help protect against disease both now and in the future (Xin, 2016).
Live longer. It has been proven. People who eat more fruit and vegetables live longer than people who don't, according to a large study in 10 European countries (Leenders et al., 2013).
Better mental health. Eating 7–8 servings per day (more than the recommended minimum of 5 servings) is associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety (Conner et al., 2017)
Healthy heart. Fiber and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may help prevent cardiovascular disease (Wang et al., 2014; Collese et al., 2017; Miller et al., 2017; Aune et al., 2017).
Lower risk of cancer. In 128 of 156 nutritional studies, eating fruits and vegetables was found to lower the risk of lung, colon, breast, cervical, esophageal, oral cavity, stomach, bladder, pancreatic and ovarian cancer (Boffetta et al. ., 2010).
Lower risk of obesity. A number of studies have identified a reduced risk of adiposity and obesity in certain groups consuming fruits and vegetables (Ledoux et al., 2011; Schwingshackl et al., 2015).
Lower risk of diabetes. Increased use of green leafy vegetables and fruits is associated with a significant reduction in Type 2 diabetes risk. For every 0.2 serving/day of vegetable intake, there was a 13 percent lower risk of diabetes (Li et al., 2014).
Better gut health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other fiber-rich and plant foods improves the diversity of gut bacteria and metabolism. Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has also been shown to reduce diverticulosis and other digestive problems such as gas, constipation and diarrhea (Klimenko et al., 2018; Maxner et al., 2020).
Improved immunity. An adequate intake of fruits and vegetables can reduce the severity of some infectious diseases. While they won't protect you from a virus like COVID-19, recovery from infectious disease is better with consuming fruits and vegetables than with diets low in this food group (Chowdhury et al., 2020).
Sources: FAO. 2020. Fruits and vegetables – your dietary essentials. The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, 2021, background paper. Rome. https://doi.org/10.4060/cb2395en