Why Antioxidants and Phytochemicals Are Powerful

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The Importance of Colorful Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense foods that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber with few calories. They look good and taste great, providing powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals. Antioxidants are chemicals in fruits and vegetables that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, also known as cancer producing agents. Phytochemicals are organic components in plant foods that are good for disease prevention and overall health.

The most important aspect of eating fruits and vegetables is the variety of colors and pigments that they have. There are 7 main color groups that are recommended to eat:

  1. Red group– Provides a good source of lycopene that fights heart disease and lowers cholesterol. Some examples of this group are tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. These fruits and vegetables have a good source of Vita- min C, potassium, vitamin A, and folate (B vitamin).
  2. Red/purple group– Foods like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, and cranberries have the color pigment, anthocyanin that provide great sources of antioxidants.
  3. Orange group– This group provides many carotenoids, which are considered phytochemicals, such as alpha– and beta–carotene that lowers high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Carrots are the primary source of beta-carotene.
  4. Orange/yellow group– Foods such as peaches, papaya, and orange juice have minor carotenoids that promote health.
  5. Yellow/green group– Provides good sources of phytochemicals, such as lutein and zeaxanthin that prevents eye diseases including cataracts and macular degeneration. Some foods in this category are green peas, avocado, yellow corn, honeydew melon.
  6. Green group– A good source of potassium, folate, vitamin C, A, and E. Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts activate enzymes that detoxify carcinogens.
  7. Green/white group– Foods like chives, green onions, garlic, and white onions provide a good source of flavanoids, which is one of the main classes of phytochemicals. Allicin, a flavanoid in onion and garlic can promote heart health and prevent cancers.

Colors and pigments of fruits and vegetables promote good health, provide energy, and prevent heart disease, which is the number one killer in America. It’s very important to eat every color of the rainbow because antioxidants and phytochemicals provide nutrients your body needs.

References: The American Heart Association; The American Dietetics Association; WebMD; Nutrition Education for October 2008. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County by Kristen Nowell, nutrition intern for Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D. For questions regarding nutritional information, please contact Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. Tarrant County at (817) 336-0912 or email: ssimon@mealsonwheels.org. Website: www.mealsonwheels.org 

Posted in Nutritional Education.

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