27 September 11 White Fruits & Veggies – Don't Knock ‘Em!

If I had a nickel for every time a patient told me that they were told not to eat "white vegetables" I'd be rich. And to boot, I do not agree with that overly simplistic approach to picking fruits and vegetables. Excluding white fruits and vegetables is not wise – it means excluding nutrient-rich foods that have important health benefits.


White fruits and veggies are not just those with white skins, they also include those with white interior fleshy parts. The "white" color comes from naturally-occurring plant pigments called anthoxanthins. This umbrella term includes a wide variety of bioactive chemicals loosely termed "flavonoids" – which include flavones (e.g. rutinol), flavonols (e.g. quercetin), flavonones (e.g. naringin) and flavanols (e.g. catechins and leucoanthocyanins). They are all antioxidants that are also reputed to have anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic activity. That is, eating plenty of anthoxanthins from fruits and vegetables might help reduce our risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Color Changes

Cook or soak cauliflower in an acid (e.g. lemon juice) and the white becomes very bright. Cook or soak it in a base (e.g. pH above 7 – baking soda) and the vegetable turns yellow. Cooking it in an aluminum or cast iron pan will cause it to turn an off yellow color since anthoxanthins have a tendency to glob onto (or "complex with") minerals.

White Fruits & Veggies

Some examples of white fruits and veggies include apples, pears, apple juice, bananas, cauliflower, chicory, cucumber, mushrooms, white potatoes and soybeans.

If you need encouragement to increase your intake of white fruits and vegetables, then consider reading the article from USA Today (published 9/16/11), "White Fruits & Vegetables Might Lower Stroke Risk." The authors of the original study estimate that the risk of stroke was reduced by 9% for every 25 gram increase in white fruit consumed (pears and apples). That is less than an ounce of fruit!

White Potatoes

While I agree that folks would do well to ditch potato chips and French fries, I absolutely do not agree that plain unprocessed white potatoes have to be eliminated from a healthy eating plan. Please do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A medium baked potato with its skin on (about 6 oz) is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 and a good source of iron and fiber. The carbs are reasonable (36 total carbohydrate grams or about 2.5 carb choices for diabetes meal planning) as are the 160 calories. Eat the skin and flesh and watch what you put on the potato. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt is a delicious substitute for sour cream – far lower in calories and zero saturated fat!
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables Foods & Recipes/Potatoes & French Fries Nutrients/Antioxidants

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