Health and Nutritional Benefits of Coloured Fruits and Vegetables
Author: Dr. Pooja Pant

Fruits and vegetables are very important to our health because they are whole foods, created by nature, that are rich in a large amount of nutrients. Eating plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits helps prevent heart disease and strokes, diverticulitis, controls blood pressure, prevent some types of cancers, and guards against cataract and macular degeneration or vision loss.

Colour is a major factor and cosmetic indicator of fruits and vegetables. Different types of colours indicates different nutrient profiles, therefore, by consuming fruits and vegetables of different colours, one can maximize the health and nutritional benefits every day. It is generally considered, that darker the color, the greater the health benefit the produce offers. Fruits and vegetables get their colour from plant pigments, which have antioxidant properties. Plant pigments in fruits and vegetables are mainly chlorophylls (greens), anthocyanins (blues, purples, reds) and carotenoids (reds, yellows, oranges).Each colour carries its own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called phytochemicals. It is these phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colour and of course some of their healthy properties.

Colours of fruits and vegetables and their nutritional benefits The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating at least five to nine servings per day of fruits and vegetables. A colourful, balanced diet is associated with good health and prosperity. This is because the different colors of fruits and vegetables indicate the different nutrients they contain. Consuming a rainbow of fruits and vegetables helps insure you get enough of the different nutrients you need for good health.

Blue and Purple The blue compound that bring considerable nutritional value is called anthocyanin, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties that that help limit damage caused to cells by free radicals and may also lower the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, macular degeneration and memory problems. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables also contain flavonoids and ellagic acid, compounds that may destroy cancer cells, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. The anthocyanins and ellagic acid in blueberries have been shown anti-inflammatory properties to fight cancer cells in the lungs, stomach, breasts and pancreas. Anthocyanins and phenolics which are present in prunes, berries and grapes helps in slow down the aging process.

Green Chlorophyll is responsible for green colour of fruits and vegetables. Nutrients present in green fruit and vegetables are fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, and Beta-carotene. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli contains indoles, a group of phytochemicals which protect against breast cancer and prostate cancer, and the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which may prevent vision loss due to eye diseases such as macular degenerationg. Eating green vegetables rich in leutin has been found to prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Green vegetables are good for bones and teeth and their vitamin K content helps blood to clot properly. These antioxidant vitamins, particularly vitamins C and E, lower down risk of chronic diseases.

Yellow and Orange Compounds which are responsible for yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables are called carotenoids. Carotenoids help in improving immune system and lower down risk for heart disease, vision problems and cancer. The best-known of the carotenoids, beta-carotene, is converted into vitamin A upon entering the liver and decrease cholesterol levels in the liver. It not only improves night vision, but also helps to keep skin, teeth and bones healthy. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables also contain zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients reduce risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, fight harmful free radicals, encourage alkaline balance, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones. Citrus fruits contain bioflavonoids. These bioflavonoids together with vitamin C helps in reducing risk of cancer, keep skin healthy and strengthen bones and teeth.

Red The natural plant pigment which is responsible for red coloured fruits and vegetables is called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which minimizes risk of cancer and keeps heart healthy. Besides this red Fruits and Vegetables contains nutrients like ellagic acid, Quercetin, and Hesperidin. These nutrients reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce tumor growth and LDL cholesterol levels, scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support join tissue in arthritis cases. Quercetin Found in apples, citrus and onions, not only prevents LDL cholesterol oxidation, but also helps the body cope with allergens and other lung and breathing problems. Ellagic Acid found in raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and walnuts, has been proven in many clinical studies to act as an antioxidant and anticarcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract. It also has been proven to have an anti- proliferative effect on cancer cells, because it decreases their ATP production. According to research red fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, watermelon, red cabbage, kidney beans, cherries, strawberries and beets, are rich in anthocyanins, a group of phytochemicals, that are powerful antioxidants that protects against diabetes and helps in controlling high blood pressure.

White White vegetables may not seem as colourful as others, but they can be highly nutritious. White fruits and vegetables get their colour from polyphenol compounds with antioxidant properties called anthoxanthins, which may help lower your risk for heart disease and cancer. Vegetables like onion, garlic, leeks, chives contain a range of health-promoting phytochemicals allicin which is known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. The allicin containing vegetables may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the body’s ability to fight infections. White fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, bananas, cauliflower and cucumbers, are high in dietary fiber, helping to protect you from high cholesterol, and antioxidant-rich flavonoids, such as quercetin, which is abundant in apples and pears. They may also lower your risk of stroke. Cauliflower and turnips contain rich amounts of compounds known as glucosinolates, which may provide some protection against cancer. Garlic and onions contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which may play an important role in managing chronic inflammation. White beans are valuable sources of protein and fiber, as well as B-vitamins, potassium and iron. Other nutrients present in white fruits and vegetables include Beta-glucans, EGCG, SDG, and lignin that provide powerful immune boosting activity. These nutrients also activate natural killer B and T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers , and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers.

Fruits and vegetables provide health benefits and are important for the prevention of illnesses. Coloured fruits and vegetables stop free radicals from causing harm to our body cells. There are nearly 4000 phytochemicals available in nature and experts recommend that our diet should consist of rainbow colored fruits and vegetables to get all their health benefits.

Categorization of coloured fruits and vegetables

Blue and purple Green Yellow and orange Red White
Fruits vegetables Fruits vegetables Fruits vegetables Fruits vegetables Fruits vegetables
Black currents Eggplant Avocados Artichokes Apricots Carrots Cranberries Beets Bananas Cauliflower
Blueberries Purple cabbage Green apples Broccoli Cape Gooseberries Cantaloupe Cherries Red bell peppers pears Garlic
Blackberries Purple peppers Kiwifruit Celery Mangoes Pumpkin Pomegranate Tomatoes Apple Onions
Fig Purple carrots Green grapes Green peppers Papayas winter squash Raspberries Rhubarb White nectarines Turnips
Pomegranate Honeydew Endive Persimmons Rutabagas Strawberries Red chili peppers Shallots
Raisins Okra Oranges Kohlrabi
Prunes Spinach Lemon Jerusalem artickoke

About Author / Additional Info:
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Agriculture, PDM university, Bahadurgarh Haryana