News

Why Eating Your Colors is Essential

All of the nutrients we need reside in plants, and their vibrant hues are a clue to their healthy components.

We’ve known for centuries that a diet centered around plants is optimum. Hippocrates, the Greek physician considered the father of Western medicine, said, “Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” In his encyclopedia of natural history, published around AD 77, Pliny the elder cites the medicinal properties of hundreds of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. And that’s just in the West. The foundation of traditional Asian diets has been plant foods, which play a significant role in disease prevention. Modern research supports this ancient wisdom, as do our instincts. We know we need to consume more plant foods, and we know plant foods are good for us. But what is it about the color that makes them so healthful? The answer is in the phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals (phyto means “plant”) are manufactured by plants in order to protect themselves from the damage caused by animals or insects, photosynthesis, and bv radiation. When we consume them, they provide the same protection for us that they do for the plant. More than 1,000 different phytochemicals have been identified, and hundreds more are still undiscovered. Although phytochemicals are not technically classified as nutrients, they contain properties associated with disease prevention and treatment, particularly those relating to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
Phytochemicals are easy to identify because they are actually the pigments that give fruits, vegetables, and flowers their distinctive colors. We can detect the highest concentrations of different phytochemicals just by looking at a plant’s shade.

Taste the Rainbow
Blue anthocyanins found in berries have been linked to fighting diseases ranging from cancer and diabetes to bacterial infections. It’s true that noshing on too many orange fruits and veggies can cause skin to develop an apricot hue, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying sweet potatoes and pumpkin in bulk, as their beta-carotene prevents cognitive degeneration. The vibrant, red betacyanins found in amaranth herbs and beets are natural antioxidants and are thought to fight cancer and improve health by combating free radicals in the body. Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin that helps form red blood cells, metabolizes protein, and increases cell growth. To get your folate fill, eat dark, leafy greens and veggies such as spinach. Don’t munch on carrots to improve vision; instead eat lutein-rich foods such as collard greens and kale, which have been linked to improved eyesight and lowered risk of cataract development.

Dull in Color, Not in Nutrients
Just because one color is stronger than another doesn’t mean these foods are void of other phytochemicals; they just occur in lower levels. Bananas, for instance, though yellow in appearance, also contain the blue anthocyanin pigments, but on a smaller scale. This is one of the benefits of eating a variety of plant foods: We’re consuming a number of different phytochemicals.
So, the next time you shop, fill your cart with all the colors of the rainbow (don’t forget white, tan, black, and brown). As a result, you will be eating the most nutrient-rich, flavor-dense, aesthetically exciting diet possible.

More News

Upping Produce to "10 A Day" Drops Death Risk

A comprehensive study of two million people found that doubling the "5 A Day" fruit and vegetable recommendation comes with miraculous health benefits.
Read More »

City Council Asks VegFest to Sell Meat Sausages

Event organizers defend their choice to omit meat from Earth Day vegetarian celebrations as its consumption is not environmentally friendly.
Read More »

First Vegan Cafeteria Opens in Palestine

The country's first plant-based eatery is on-campus at Al-Quds University.
Read More »

25 Percent of UK Slaughterhouses Fail Hygiene Standards

An investigation uncovers that one in four meat products on supermarket shelves may be contaminated with a host of disease-causing bacteria.
Read More »

Vegan Cowboy Boot Boutique to Open in Dallas

The vegan showroom will sell custom-made cowboy boots, belts, jewelry, clothing, and home goods.
Read More »

This Week on VegNews TV: The secret to these delightful sweet treats is white beans! Aylin Erman shows you how to make these simple blondies.

More Videos »