August 28, 2013
A rainbow of fruits and vegetables
Trying to work more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a bit more complex – and beneficial – than simply eating “an apple a day,” but doing so can have great health benefits. Selecting a bigger and bolder variety of fruits and vegetables offers a wealth of protection to our cells, may help prevent cancer, supports our immune system and tastes good, too. Focus on eating a “rainbow” of fruits and veggies -- the more naturally colorful you make your produce choices, the more powerful and protective compounds your body will receive.
Protective compounds in fruits and vegetables are referred to as phytochemicals, which are components made by plants that function within the human body and may help prevent formation of carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), block carcinogens or inhibit cancer development. They also function to keep cells healthy, decrease the risk of chronic disease and boost the immune system.
Phytochemicals have antioxidant (hormone-like) actions. Antioxidants are a type of phytochemical that prevent cell damage. You may also have heard of some other identified types of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanins, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, polyphenols, and phenolic acids. These components are identified by the color of the fruit and vegetable, each supporting human health and usually working with other phytochemicals to do so.
What to look for
Here are some examples of colorful nutrition in fruits and vegetables and what each has to offer:
- Red: Lycopene acts as an antioxidant and may help reduce prostate cancer risk. Examples include tomatoes and tomato products, even watermelon and guava.
- Orange: Beta-carotene supports the immune system and is also an antioxidant, found in carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes and pumpkins.
- Yellow-orange: Vitamin C and flavonoids may suppress cancer cell growth and can be obtained from oranges, lemons, grapefruit and peaches.
- Green: Folate and carotenoids such as lutein help to protect cells and to help prevent cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx. These components are found in dark-green. leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
- White-green: Phytochemicals such as allyl sulfides and quercetin exhibit antioxidant effects and support the immune system from foods such as garlic, onions, chives and asparagus.
- Blue: Anthocyanins give these fruits their bold color and also destroy free radicals from damaging our cells. They are also a good source of vitamin C and K. Blueberries, purple grapes and plums have skins that contain these compounds.
- Purple: Resveratrol is a polyphenol and type of phytochemical that may decrease the risk of stomach cancer. The skins of fruits and vegetables, such as grapes and eggplant, contain this phytochemical.
Remember that all fruits and vegetables also provide dietary fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of colon cancer.
Eat the rainbow!
Learn more about phytochemicals »
Learn more about antioxidants »
Learn more about free radicals »
For more information related to colon cancer prevention, visit: www.coloncancerpreventionproject.org.
For more information about foods that fight cancer, visit the American Institute of Cancer Research’s Website: www.aicr.org and www.cancer.org.