Written by guest blogger Anna Roe, a dietetic intern at the UK Markey Cancer Center.
Did you know the outside appearance of your food can tell you a whole lot about the nutritional benefits inside?
Specifically, a food’s color can indicate what kinds of antioxidants the food has. Antioxidants are found in produce and whole grains and can help protect the cells in your body from damage. They do this by neutralizing free radicals – chemicals that can hurt cells, damage their DNA, and play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants is a great way to improve your health. Next time you go grocery shopping, think “red, white and blue” to load up on foods packed with antioxidants.
- Red fruits and vegetables have a compound called lycopene. Lycopene can help prevent prostate cancer and heart disease. Foods with lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, sweet red peppers and pink grapefruit
- White fruits and vegetables have flavonols and isothiocyanates. Both have been found to protect against prostate, colorectal, lung and breast cancer. Isothiocyanates also protect against inflammation. Foods with flavonols include grapes, onions and apples. Isothiocyanates can be found in cauliflower.
- Blue (or purple) fruits have flavonoids, and more specifically anthocyanins (also found in red foods). Flavonoids may protect against stomach and smoking-related cancers and help prevent inflammation. Anthocyanins can also help improve eyesight. Foods with flavonoids include blueberries and blackberries. Foods with anthocyanins include eggplant and grapes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat 2-3 cups of raw or cooked vegetables and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fresh, frozen or canned fruits each day. Remember that fruits and vegetables of all colors – including green, orange and yellow ones – are an essential part of a healthy diet.
References: National Cancer Institute