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 (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.
"Being Kind is Cool" at New Vegan Scoop Shop
Austin's Vicecreme opens with a compassionate message and incredible vegan ice cream, banana-based soft serve, sundaes, shakes, and more.
Read More »
Victoria's Secret Model Helps Launch Vegan Shoe Line
South African supermodel Candice Swanepoel collaborated with LA-based shoe company Mara & Mine to create its first vegan collection.
Read More »
New Study Finds Plants Slash Diabetes Risk by 18 Percent
A 19-year study found that consuming plant-protein greatly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Read More »
Kentucky Vegan Jerky-Maker to Open Café
Stanley Chase—the man behind Louisville Vegan Jerky—will launch Morels Cafe with sandwiches, a meat and cheese counter, pop-tarts, and jerky snacks.
Read More »
Super Band DREAMCAR Embarks on Vegan Tour
Bassist and former No Doubt member Tony Kanal and frontman Davey Havok (of AFI fame) want nothing to do with animal products on their band's nationwide tour.
Read More »
- Musical Meatless Monday Event Premieres
- Eating Animals Increases Risk for Fatty Liver Disease
- Unilever Adds More Vegan Mayo to Brand Portfolio
- LAUSD Dumps McDonald's to Benefit Kids' Health
- World's First 24-Hour Vegan Drive-Thru Debuts in June
- H&M Names "Wineleather" a Global Changemaker
- White Castle Rolls Out New Vegan Black Bean Slider
- Vegan BBQ Turns Into Proper Sit-Down Restaurant
- Chickpea Startup Gets $8 Million Capital Boost
- Beyond Burger to Be Served on Capitol Hill
- Etnies Launches Cruelty-Free Shoe to Honor Vegan Skater
- Vegan Tattoo Shop to Hold Benefit for Animals
- Playing the Lotto is Now a Win for Animals
- Startup to Inspire Gen Z to Go Vegan by Age 25
- New NGO Aims to Make Vegan Food Widely Available
- New Animal Sanctuary Herbivorous Acres Finds a Home
- Vegan Eatery with Ocean Views to Open in Miami
- Vegan Burger Gets Big Thumbs Up from Men's Health
- Vegan Doctors File Suit to Ban Hot Dogs in LA Schools
- "On a Bus" Vegan Eatery Debuts on a Bus in Milwaukee