Pigments in Fruits & Vegetables
Happy New Year FYI readers! For our Winter issue I will talk about the importance of consuming a variety of pigmented or colored fruits and vegetables. We are all aware of the recommendation of consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily but in this issue I will briefly point out why this recommendation is important and how to maximize the effect. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients and vitamins and the different pigments are actually different phytochemicals that are beneficial to our health.
The red pigments found in fruits like watermelon, red grapes, tomatoes and strawberries are called lycopene and anthocyanin. These pigments may reduce the risk of several types of cancers especially prostate cancer. These pigments are also powerful antioxidants that keep the heart healthy and protect from cell damage.
Orange and yellow pigments found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and carrots are colored by carotenoids. Beta-carotene is the precursor for vitamin A which may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, improve immune function, and decrease the risk of age related macular degeneration.
Green fruits and vegetables are pigmented by chlorophyll and include dark leafy greens, green pepper, honey dew melon, green apples, kiwi, lettuce zucchini, and broccoli.
Dark leafy greens contain folate which is a very important nutrient for women’s health especially during pregnancy. They also contain a chemical called lutein which is integral to healthy eyesight. Blue and purple pigmented fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins which are potent antioxidants that protect the cells from damage, reduce the risk of cancer, and heart disease. Included in this group are blackberries, eggplant, figs, purple grapes, raisins, and blueberries.
White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called anthoxanthins. These pigments contain healthy chemicals such as allicin which may reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and reduces the risk of stomach cancer. Included in this group are bananas, garlic, ginger, onions and mushrooms.
This is only a brief introduction to the potency of the health generating chemicals found in fruits and vegetables and I encourage you to do further research on this fascinating topic. Until next time, “eat the rainbow” when choosing your fruits and vegetables.
-Mark Davis BS NUT