Phytonutrients. A Rainbow of Foods.

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”  Genesis 9:13

Phytochemicals are plant foods that contain natural chemicals that help protect the plant. They also help us prevent disease and keep our bodies working properly. There are more that 10,000 known phytonutrients.

Rainbow of Food

Eating food with an assortment of colors gives the most benefit including a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Each color food has a different type of phytochemical. The color tells you what nutrient it contains. For example, most of us know orange foods contain beta carotene. The darker the color the more health benefits.

Eating plenty of foods rich in phytochemicals has shown to inhibit cancer and heart disease.

Researchers are still discovering all the nutrients found in foods.

Below are examples of foods by color and the phytochemicals found in them. This is not even close to being an exhaustive list. It is more of an overview to show the importance of eating a diet rich in color and diversity.

Taste the Rainbow

YELLOW

Nutrients – carotenoids, bioflavonoids, vitamin C,  lutein
Benefits – helps with heart health, vision, eye health, digestion, immunity, healthy skin, wound healing , reducing risks of certain cancers.
Examples–  pineapple, lemon, peppers, yellow summer squash, bananas, spaghetti squash, yellow acorn squash, yellow watermelon, yellow potatoes, corn, yellow beets, golden kiwi.
Bromelain from pineapple is a digestive enzyme and also is used as an anti-inflammatory and arthritis remedy.

ORANGE

Nutrients – vitamin C, vitamin A (retinol), alpha and beta carotene
Benefits – good for eye health, delay cognitive aging, protects skin from the sun, beta carotene converts to vitamin A, good for night vision, neutralize free radicals, strengthen immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease, rebuilds collagen in the skin, soft tissue repair and  reduce risk of certain cancers.
Examples-sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, persimmon, oranges, cantaloupe, peaches, mangoes, papaya, carrots, turmeric.

RED

Nutrients– lycopene, anthocyanin, quercetin, vitamin A, vitamin C, ellagic acid, beta carotene and potassium.
Benefits -protects from prostate and cervical cancer, protects from free radicals, heart disease , blood pressure, lowers bad cholesterol, reduces arthritis pain.
Examples– cherries, pomegranates, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, peppers and beets.

BLUE/PURPLE

Nutrients- anthocyanin, lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, flavonoids, ellagic acid and quercetin.                                                                                                                                        Benefits -heart health, blood pressure, lowers risk of cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, eye health, boosts immune system, anti-aging, improve memory, increased circulation.
Examples -eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, purple cabbage, purple Brussels sprouts, purple grapes, purple potatoes.

GREEN

Nutrients– chlorophyll, isothiocyanates, vitamin K, potassium, sulforaphane, carotenoid, omega 3, folic acid, lutein, beta carotene, zeaxanthin, indole-3, glucosinolates
Benefits– anti-cancer, eye health, lowers cardiovascular disease, lowers diabetes risk, bone health, antioxidant.
Examples– broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, avocado, celery, honeydew, kiwi leeks, peas, zucchini.

WHITE/BROWN

Nutrients-beta gluons, lignins, vitamin c, potassium, allicin, sulfur, quercetin, inositol, isoflavones
Benefits– lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and heart disease risk, enhances the immune system, strengthen bone tissue, anti-inflammatory.
Examples– garlic, onion, cauliflower, ginger, jicama, parsnips, mushrooms, white peaches, turnips, bananas, horseradish, ginger.

The use of phytonutrient supplements is not recommended.

What color do you need to eat more of?

 

Sources

American Institute for Cancer Reasearch. Phytochemicals: The Cancer Fighters in the Foods we Eat.

Healthpedian.org. Types of Phytochemicals and their Effects on the Human Body.

Phytochemicals.

Today’s Dietitian. Phytochemical’s Role in Good Health.

University of California Davis. Nutrition and Health Info Sheet: Phytochemicals.

Villanova University, Phytochemicals.

Vital Health Zone. Phytochemicals.

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