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How Colorful is Your Plate?

One piece of dieting advice that I especially like – because it’s fun and easy – is to eat fruits and vegetables of all colors of the spectrum. This definitely makes for interesting looking salads and colorful plates, but what’s the reasoning behind it? Why complicate the five-a-day target by saying that those five should bedifferent colors?

Different Fruit and Veg Colors

Think for a moment about the different colors that fruits and vegetables can be. How many can you come up with? Can you really get a rainbow? I managed

  • Red (tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, cherries)
  • Orange (carrots, oranges, sweet peppers)
  • Yellow (sweet peppers, sweetcorn, lemons)
  • Green (lettuce, cucumber, courgette, celery, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, rocket, kiwi fruit…)
  • Blue and purple (blueberries, aubergine, purple broccoli)
  • White (onions, garlic, leeks, pears, green grapes)

(There’s a complete chart of fruits and vegetables categorized into different colors at Color Wheel of Fruits and Vegetables.)

So it’s definitely possible to get a bright and varied salad or fruit platter on the table. But what do all the colors mean in nutritional terms?

Nutrients in Different Colored Fruit and Veg

Each color is an indication of a key nutrients being present in the fruit or vegetable. I’m covering the main ones here – there are also other minerals and vitamins present in some of these colored fruits and vegetables, though in smaller quantities.

Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant thought to reduce the risk of cancer. (This is why tomatoes are often classed as a “superfood”!)

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables also contain lycopene, in addition to beta-carotene (which is turned to vitamin A in the body) flavonoids (another type of antioxidant) potassium (an essential mineral), and vitamin C.

Green fruits and vegetables contain essential minerals such as calcium and folate. They also include vitamin C and beta-carotene (which is turned to vitamin A in the body).

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanin – another type of flavonoid. They are also rich in vitamin C, fiber and lutein (an antioxidant).

White fruits and vegetables contain allicin, which may help your body to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and fight off infections more easily. Polyphenols occur in pears and green grapes and can reduce the risk of certain cancers.

What Colors Are You Missing?

The list of nutrients, minerals and vitamins can be a bit overwhelming – there’s obviously a lot of good stuff in fruits and vegetables, but it’s hard to know exactly which we need. For a balanced diet, it’s best to eat some of every single color.

Are you missing any colors from your diet? What fruits or vegetables could you eat to complete your healthy rainbow? Who knows – you might even find a new favorite food!

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