Phytochemicals–They’re Good for You

In addition to vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which are compounds providing color, aroma, texture and flavor to plant-based foods. Phytochemicals help reduce the risk of many diseases.

More than 2,000 phytochemicals are plant pigments, which provide a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Just remember, the darker the color, the more phytochemicals and health benefits of a fruit or vegetable. For example, spinach will have more phytochemicals and health benefits than iceberg lettuce.

Color Phytochemical Health Benefit Examples
Red Lycopene May reduce the risk of prostate cancer Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, berries, cherries, red apples, beets, red cabbage
Orange/Yellow Beta Carotene Reduces risk for heart disease; boosts immune system; helps maintain good eyesight Apricots, pumpkin, mangos, sweet potatoes, oranges
Blue/Purple Anthocyanins May help reduce risk of heart disease and gastrointestinal track cancer; anti-inflammatory properties Blueberries, eggplant, plums, raisins, purple grapes
White Allicin May help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing risk of heart disease; may reduce risk of stomach cancer Garlic, onions, leeks
White Sulphoraphane Possible role in inhibiting cancer growth Cauliflower, jicama, parsnips, banana
Green Lutein May help reduce risk for cataracts and age-related macular degeneration Spinach, kale, peas, Brussels sprouts, kiwifruit, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, green grapes

March Is National Nutrition Month: Eat Right with Color

eat right with colorEvery March the American Dietetic Association observes National Nutrition Month®. This year the theme is ‘Eat Right with Color.’ Research suggests people who eat generous amounts of different colored fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are likely to reduce their risks of chronic diseases including strokes, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that a person needing 2,000 calories a day eat 21⁄2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. To meet that goal, most people need to eat more fruits and vegetables. All forms of fruits and vegetables count: fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100% fruit juice. Whole fruit, however, contains more fiber then juice so it’s best to limit juice to 1 cup or less per day. To get the variety that different colored vegetables provide, the following amounts from the vegetable subgroups (based on 2,000 calories) is recommended:

  • Dark green vegetables (3 cups per week)
  • Orange vegetables (2 cups per week)
  • Dried beans and peas (3 cups per week)
  • Starchy vegetables (3 cups per week)
  • Other vegetables (6 1/2 cups per week)

To find out how many cups of fruits and vegetables you should be eating, visit www.mypyramid.gov.

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