Eat A Rainbow

If you haven't been eating much in the way of produce, choosing any kind of fruit or vegetable more often is a great start. But to get the biggest bang for your bite, think in color. Choosing assorted colors of fruits and vegetables is a great strategy for making sure you get the most nutritional value from your produce choices. In fact, an eating plan centered around colorful fruits and vegetables receives hearty endorsement from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

In many cases, the deeper and darker the color of the fruit or vegetable, the greater the amount of nutrients it contains. For example, spinach offers eight times more vitamin C than does iceberg lettuce, and a ruby red grapefruit offers 25 times more vitamin A than a white grapefruit. Yet every fruit and vegetable has a unique complement of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that provide benefits. So it's important to sample from the complete color spectrum as well as to eat a variety within each color group. The following are some ideas to expand your produce palette.

Blue and Purple

These fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of health-promoting phytonutrients, such as polyphenols and anthocyanins. The pigments that give these foods their rich color pack a powerful antioxidant punch. Blue and purple produce give you extra protection against some types of cancer and urinary tract infections, plus they may help boost brain health and vision.

Fruits: Blackberries, blueberries, currants (black), elderberries, figs (purple), grapes (purple), plums, prunes, raisins

Vegetables: Asparagus (purple), Belgian endive (purple), cabbage (purple), carrots (purple), eggplant, peppers (purple),  potatoes (purple-fleshed)

Green

Green fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of potent phytochemicals, such as lutein and indoles, as well as other essential nutrients. These substances can help lower cancer risk, improve eye health, and keep bones and teeth strong.

Fruits: Apples (green), avocados, grapes (green), honeydew, kiwifruit, limes, pears (green)

Vegetables: Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beans (green), broccoflower, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, cabbage (Chinese), cabbage (green), celery, Chayote squash, cucumbers, endive, greens (leafy), leeks, lettuce, okra, onions (green), peas (green or English, snow, sugar snap), peppers (green), spinach, watercress, zucchini

White/Tan/Brown

White, tan, and brown fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of phytonutrients, such as allicin, found in the onion family. These fruits and vegetables play a role in heart health by helping you maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and they may lower the risk of some types of cancer.

Fruits: Bananas, dates, nectarines (white), peaches (white), pears (brown)

Vegetables: Cauliflower, corn (white), garlic, ginger, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, kohlrabi, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes (white-fleshed), shallots, turnips

Yellow and Orange

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, as well as other phytonutrients, including carotenoids and bioflavonoids. These substances may help promote heart and vision health and a healthy immune system; they may also help to ward off cancer.

Fruits: Apples (yellow), apricots, cantaloupe, cape gooseberries, figs (yellow), grapefruit, kiwifruit (golden), lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears (yellow), persimmons, pineapple, tangerines, watermelon (yellow)

Vegetables: Beets (yellow), carrots, corn (sweet), peppers (yellow), potatoes (yellow), pumpkin, rutabagas, squash (butternut), squash (yellow summer), squash (yellow winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes (yellow)

Red

Phytonutrients in red produce that have health-promoting properties include lycopene, ellagic acid, and anthocyanins. Red fruits and vegetables may help maintain heart health, memory function, and urinary tract health as well as lower the risk of some types of cancer.

Fruits: Apples (red), cherries, cranberries, grapefruit (pink/red), grapes (red), oranges, pears (red), pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon

Vegetables: Beets, onions (red), peppers (red), potatoes (red), radicchio, radishes, rhubarb, tomatoes

Knowing which fruits and vegetables you need to eat to gain certain nutrients is important. But knowing when to pick them and keep them from spoiling is equally important. Let's review some helpful tips about ripeness and freshness in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.