Phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that are indicated by the colors of fruit and vegetables. They work synergystically with one another as do vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
Tens of thousands of known phytonutrients have been studied so far, and more are explored every day.
To get a good balance of phytonutrients, one should consume fruits and vegetables from the entire color spectrum.
The color categories of phytonutrients are red, red-purple (and blue), orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, green, and white-green. Some phytonutrients are found in multiple categories.
Plant polyphenols, familiar by now to much of the population, is a large category of phytonutrients known to have significant antioxidant capabilities, and so in turn, limit inflammatory response.
They have been studied for some time now for their role in protecting cells against cancerous conditions.
A familiar subgroup of polyphenols is flavanoids, which has been shown a powerful anti-oxidant as well, found in red, blue, purple, as well as white and green fruits and vegetables.
A recently hailed sub-category of flavanoids is anthocyanins, found in the red, blue and purple foods. Anthocyanins, may help reduce the risk of hear disease and stroke by inhibiting clot formation as part of its anti-inflammatory action.
Green / yellow foods such as kiwi, corn, spinach and avacado, contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which provide protection of the eyes, helping to fight cataracts and macular degeneration.
Green foods, such as broccoli and brussell sprouts, contain isothiocyanates, which aid in the production of liver enzymes, which help to fight cancer as well.
White foods such as garlic and onions also contain allicin, a tumor fighter.
Another well known category, cartenoids, are from the yellows and orange colored fruits and vegetables. There are over 600 cartenoids which have been identified, and are even more widely distributed in nature.
These pigments are fat soluble rather than water soluble. Cartenoids are also antioxidants, shielding cells from free radicals, especially highly reactive, unpaired oxygen atoms. One such cell protective anti-oxidant is beta cryptoxanthin.
Our bodies can make vitamin A from beta-carotene, a principal cartenoid in many fruits and vegetables (peaches, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach).
Note that preformed vitamin A (retinol) should not be taken in supplements as it is necessary to be derived from the mixture of cartenoids necessary for the body uses to produce it, which include lutien and lycopene, also found in red colored fruits and vegetables.
Lutien is a cartenoid found in collard greens, kale, peas, spinach, and romaine lettuce, and is the main cartenoid in the human retina. Lycopene, responsible for the red in tomatoes, can also protect against malignant prostate cancer.
This is a list of foods in each color category to help you vary your diet to receive the full spectrum of phytonutritents:
|Red / Purple||Red||Orange||Yellow / Green||Green||White / Green|
Cranberries (or sauce)
Purple or red grapes
Cucumbers (with skin)
Green or yellow pepper
Romain or leaf lettuce (not iceberg!)
Zucchini (with skin)
So take a trip through the produce isle and shop for your rainbow!