Did you know that colors are not just for visual beauty? In fact, colors are powerful tools animals and plants use as a form of survival (think camouflage), and to signal viability, level of threat to others, and much more.
Because people are very much visual consumers, we tend to eat what looks good to us. And behind every decision based on color, there’s usually a benefit (or consequence) to that decision, mostly based on the actual nutritional density of the food item in question.
What are phytochemicals?
Food colors often indicate nutritional benefits - also called phytochemicals - that are good for our bodies. That’s why we often hear that our plates of food should be colorful. Phytochemical include crucial antioxidants, which help boost our immunity, reduce free radicals, and promote the growth of healthy cells.
Other examples of phytochemical include vitamins and minerals, fiber, potassium, and many more.
What are the most common food color categories and their benefits?
For the purposes of this blog, let’s focus on six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and white. Within each color category, the phytochemical vary slightly, but all are intended to do our bodies good.
RED: fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, strawberries and red beans, are packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and antioxidants.
YELLOW/ORANGE: includes carrots, peaches, squash, and pineapple that are also loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. These phytochemical can also boost the immune system and enhance vision.
WHITE: mushrooms, bananas, onions and other white fruits and vegetables are good for the heart and help control cholesterol levels.
GREEN: green fruits and veggies help maintain vision-health and strong bones and teeth. Dark green, leafy vegetables have the highest concentration of antioxidants and fiber.
BLUE/PURPLE: includes such favorites as cranberries, purple grapes, raisins and eggplant, boost urinary tract health, memory function, and promote healthy aging.
As often as possible, choose fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber as they will fill you up more and leave less room for foods that are high in calories and fat. High-fiber diets have also been associated with decreased risk and recurrence of cancer.
Obviously, when it comes to the foods we eat, the goal is for us not to be too critical of what colors are on our plates. Instead, this is just a helpful reminder to include a variety of colors in the foods we eat. Plus, the benefits of consuming color varying foods is a no-brainer.