How and why to get phytonutrients in colorful fruits and vegetables

  • 1 Minute Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Why should you include phytonutrients from colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet? Does it really matter where the calories come from as long as you meet your calorie goal?

Phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables

While tracking your food intake on MyNetDiary, you are likely tuned into the number of daily calories you consume. Yes, that is very smart for weight loss or maintenance. For good health, also consider the quality of the foods you choose to fit into your calorie goal. One simple approach is to aim for a diet that includes a colorful array of fruits and vegetables.

Think of antioxidants as the body's soldiers that fight the free radicals that attack healthy cells, causing disease and aging. Scientists have discovered thousands of antioxidants in foods. There is a complicated network of antioxidants in foods that interact in the body's cells. Therefore, it is not advisable to rely on single substances, but rather, to include many antioxidants in foods.

As simple as it sounds, scientists have identified important disease-crushing antioxidants according to the color of a fruit or vegetable. Plant foods have been color-coded into seven categories: red, red/purple, orange, orange/yellow, yellow/green, green, and white/green. For example, beta-carotene, found in red, orange and yellow pigments, has been studied for the prevention of lung and prostate cancer. Lycopene, a cancer-fighting substance, is found in red pigment. Lutein, a substance found in green leafy vegetables, is absorbed into the eye for protection against macular degeneration.

Why not take antioxidant supplements?

Antioxidant supplements are not a great idea for several reasons. For one, studies have not shown a reduced risk of chronic disease when individuals took supplements. In fact, in some cases, subjects taking high dose supplements actually showed an increased disease risk, such as studies showing beta-carotene caused increased lung cancer risk. Another reason supplements are not advised is that at high doses, supplements may interact with medications. Bottom line: eat a wide variety of antioxidants in colorful, fresh foods to get the most benefit with the least risk.

How to eat more color

Seek out red, purple, orange, yellow, green, and white fruits and vegetables!

Not only will your health benefit from the palette of colorful antioxidants, your meals will look prettier!

Premium recipes to eat more color

Grilled Polenta and Vegetables in Lemon Vinaigrette
Black Beans and Veggies
Quick and Easy Avocado Salad
Berry Kabobs with Greek Yogurt

Additional Reading

Superfoods for your immune system - Try these 20 Immune-boosting snacks at less than 150 calories each!

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Foods & Recipes->Fruit & Vegetables
Jan 22, 2021

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