Did you know that you can easily get more nutrients into your diet simply by getting an array of color in your plate? P
hytonutrients are are not vitamins but are powerful antioxidants that are indicated by the colors of fruit and vegetables.
There are tens of thousands of known phytonutrients and more are being studied every day.Â They are phytochemicals that provide anti-oxidant support to the plants, often in order to protect the seed they are producing. They provide the same support to living organisms that consume these plants.
It is known that to maintain a good balance of phytonutrients, one should consume fruits and vegetables from the entire color spectrum to obtain the full range of protective phytonutrients. They work synergystically with one another as do vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
The color categories of phytonutrients are red, red-purple (and blue), orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, green, and white-green.
Phytonutrients creating the red, blue, and purple in fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins, which are water soluble.
Anthocyanins are part of a larger subgroup of plant compounds called flavanoids, which are a subclass of plant polyphenols.
Plant polyphenols are known to have significant antioxidant capabilities, and so in turn, limit inflammatory response. Plant polyphenols have been studied for some time now for their role in protecting cells against cancerous conditions.
Another example of phytonutrients, cartenoids, are from the yellows and orange colored fruits and vegetables. There are over 600 cartenoids which have been identified, and are even more widely distributed in nature. These pigments are fat soluble rather than water soluble.
Cartenoids are also antioxidants, shielding cells from free radicals, especially highly reactive, unpaired oxygen atoms.
Our bodies can make vitamin A from beta-carotene, a principal cartenoid in many fruits and vegetables (peaches, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach). Note that preformed vitamin A (retinol) should not be taken in supplements as it is necessary to be derived from the mixture of cartenoids necessary for the body uses to produce it, which include lutien and lycopene.
Circumin is the most beneficial cartenoid found in turmeric, a widely used South Asian spice.
Other examples of cartenoids include lutien, found in collard greens, kale, peas, spinach, and romaine lettuce, and is the main cartenoid in the human retina.
Another is lycopene, responsible for the red in tomatoes, which can also protect against malignant prostate cancer.
This is a list of foods in each color category to help you vary your diet to receive the full spectrum of phytonutritents –
Red / Purple
These foods contain anthocyanins, which may help reduce the risk of hear disease and stroke by inhibiting clot formation.
- Acai berries
- Cranberries (or sauce)
- Purple or red grapes
- Red apples
- Red cabbage
- Red pear
- Red pepper
- Red wine
Red colored vegetables and fruits contain lycopene, a cancer fighting antioxidant.
- Pink grapefruit
The eyes and skin will benefit from the beta carotene in orange foods. An extra measure of cancer defense is another benefit.
- Acorn or winter squash
- Sweet Potato
Orange / Yellow
These foods are rich in beta cryptoxanthin, a cell protecting anti-oxidant.
- Yellow grapefruit
Yellow / Green
These foods provide further protection of the eyes, containing lutein and zeaxanthin,, which may help fight cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Collard, mustard or turnip greens
- Cucumbers (with skin)
- Green beans
- Green peas
- Green or yellow pepper
- Romain or leaf lettuce (not iceberg!)
- Zucchini (with skin)
These foods contain isothiocyanates, which aid in the production of liver enzymes, which help to fight cancer.
- Broccoli or broccoli sprouts
- Brussel sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Swiss chard
White / Green
These foods are rich in flavanoids, which protect cells against damage. Garlic and onions contain allicin, a tumor fighter.