The colour of your fruits and vegetables can tell you a lot about their nutritional value – it’s just a simple matter of learning to differentiate between them all! Antioxidants help protect the body from free radicals, while phytochemicals are substances that come from plants that can produce antioxidant effects.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that gives food its red colour. Some research has found that lycopene may help reduce the risk of cancer1. It is a desirable phytochemical to incorporate into your diet given its delicious foods: raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, red grapes, cherries, watermelon, tomatoes, beetroot, and radishes.
YELLOW & ORANGE
Beta-carotene – say hello to yummy orange & yellow foods! Beta-carotene is what gives foods their rich colour. The body also allows itself to convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision and immune system. The benefit of getting your Vitamin A from a dietary source rather than a supplement is that your body will source only as much as it needs, whereas a supplement may provide excessive amounts of Vitamin A. Vitamin A can be toxic for the body when taken in large amounts as it is a micronutrient (too much can be toxic for the body, hence ‘micro’-nutrient), so it is a nice idea to source Vitamin A from your foods such as carrots, which contain lots of beta-carotene! Other foods include: apricots, broccoli, oranges, squash, sweet potato, mangoes, lemons and grapefruit.
Lutein – the super carotenoid vitamin for eye health. Lutein/Zaexanthin are important phytochemicals that are usually rich in green foods even though the actual pigment of the phytochemical is yellow. More foods rich in lutein and zaexanthin include: Egg yolk, grapes, corn, zucchini, asparagus, red-leaf lettuce, kale, green apples, cucumbers and broccoli.
1Rao, A. V., & Agarwal, S. (1998). Bioavailability and in vivo antioxidant properties of lycopene from tomato products and their possible role in the prevention of cancer. Nutr Cancer, 31, 199-203.