Eat the rainbow

A rainbow of fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables

A rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables

Trying to work more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a bit more complex – and beneficial – than simply eating “an apple a day,” but doing so can have great health benefits. Selecting a bigger and bolder variety of fruits and vegetables offers a wealth of protection to our cells, may help prevent cancer, supports our immune system and tastes good, too. Focus on eating a “rainbow” of fruits and veggies — the more naturally colorful you make your produce choices, the more powerful and protective compounds your body will receive.

Protective phytochemicals

Protective compounds in fruits and vegetables are referred to as phytochemicals, which are components made by plants that function within the human body and may help prevent formation of carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), block carcinogens or inhibit cancer development.  They also function to keep cells healthy, decrease the risk of chronic disease and boost the immune system.

Phytochemicals have antioxidant (hormone-like) actions.  Antioxidants are a type of phytochemical that prevent cell damage. You may also have heard of some other identified types of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanins, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, polyphenols, and phenolic acids.  These components are identified by the color of the fruit and vegetable, each supporting human health and usually working with other phytochemicals to do so.

What to look for

Here are some examples of colorful nutrition in fruits and vegetables and what each has to offer:

  • Red: Lycopene acts as an antioxidant and may help reduce prostate cancer risk.  Examples include tomatoes and tomato products, even watermelon and guava.
  • Orange: Beta-carotene supports the immune system and is also an antioxidant, found in carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes and pumpkins.
  • Yellow-orange: Vitamin C and flavonoids may suppress cancer cell growth and can be obtained from oranges, lemons, grapefruit and peaches.
  • Green: Folate and carotenoids such as lutein help to protect cells and to help prevent cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx.  These components are found in dark-green. leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
  • White-green: Phytochemicals such as allyl sulfides and quercetin exhibit antioxidant effects and support the immune system from foods such as garlic, onions, chives and asparagus.
  • Blue: Anthocyanins give these fruits their bold color and also destroy free radicals from damaging our cells.  They are also a good source of vitamin C and K. Blueberries, purple grapes and plums have skins that contain these compounds.
  • Purple: Resveratrol is a polyphenol and type of phytochemical that may decrease the risk of stomach cancer. The skins of fruits and vegetables, such as grapes and eggplant, contain this phytochemical.

Remember that all fruits and vegetables also provide dietary fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of colon cancer.

Eat the rainbow!

Learn more about phytochemicals »

Learn more about antioxidants »

Learn more about free radicals »

For more information related to colon cancer prevention, visit:

For more information about foods that fight cancer, visit the American Institute of Cancer Research’s Website: and

In season: peaches

Guest blogger Katie Saettel

With summer here, a lot of fruits and vegetables are in season, including peaches.  A good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, peaches are a very versatile and nutritious fruit, with about 60 calories in one fresh peach.

Vitamins and minerals

Foods rich in vitamin A may include the pigment beta-carotene, which gives a peach its orange-red color. The health benefits from vitamin A include decreasing the risk of night blindness, age-related macular degeneration, supporting the immune system and possibly preventing some cancers.

A peach contains roughly 19% of the daily-recommended intake of vitamin C (90mg for men and 75mg for women), which also may help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and eye disease. Vitamin C is an ,which helps protect cells from genetic damage.

Potassium is a mineral that contributes to several body functions: It helps regulate heart beat and circulate blood throughout the body. It also allows muscles to contract and relax and helps the kidneys filter blood. Recommended dietary intake of potassium is 4,700mg/day. A medium peach contains roughly 426mg.


Here are some delicious ways to enjoy peaches:

Peach cobbler

Peach cobbler is best when made from fresh peaches.

Peach Cobbler

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches

2 cups sugar, divided

½ cup water

8 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 1/2 cups milk

Ground cinnamon, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

watermelon salsa

Fresh salsa is full of flavor!

Watermelon-Peach Salsa and Tomatoes


1/2 cup hot pepper jelly

1 tablespoon lime zest

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 cups seeded and diced fresh watermelon

1 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup chopped fresh chives

3 cups baby heirloom tomatoes, halved

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish: fresh basil sprigs


  1. Whisk together pepper jelly, lime zest, and lime juice in a bowl; stir in watermelon and next 3 ingredients.
  2. Season halved baby tomatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste; spoon into cocktail glasses. Top with salsa. Garnish, if desired.

Katie Saettel
Dietetic intern, University of Kentucky