The Role Of Fruit And Vegetables In Nutrition

More colour means more health. Growing up you might’ve been told to eat your greens, but what about your reds, oranges, yellows and blues? The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the 5 A Day Partnership strongly encourage you to “Sample the Spectrum” of the colourful vegetables and fruit which are available this season.

By putting something more colourful on your plate or in your lunch bag, you’re more likely to eat the 5 to 9 recommended helpings of vegetables and fruit each day. Just think: 1 cup of dark, leafy greens, ½ cup of red tomatoes, ½ cup of yellow peppers, 6 oz. orange juice and ½ cup of blueberries. And you’ll have 5 A Day! It is quite simple when you “Sample the Spectrum” which is available to you.

The more reds, oranges, greens, yellows, and blues you get on your plate, the more health promoting properties you’ll be getting from your vegetable and fruit choices. Nutrition research shows that colourful vegetables and fruit contain certain essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals that your body needs to promote health and help you feel good inside. More specifically, here are some guidelines:

Red Fruits And Vegetables

When you add colours such as deep reds or bright pinks to your daily diet, you’re also adding a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene can be found in tomatoes, red and pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya and guava. Diets rich in lycopene are being studied for their ability to fight certain heart diseases and some cancers.

Green Fruits And Vegetables

Do you know why green is so essential to your diet? Not only do green vegetables look good and taste wonderful, but they’re also rich in the phytochemicals that keep you healthy. For example, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are found in spinach, collards, kale and broccoli contain antioxidant properties and are being studied for their ability to protect your eyes by keeping your retina strong. Also, research is being carried out on cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and turnips to see if they can reduce the risk of cancerous tumours! Greens are also packed with essential vitamins (folate), minerals, and fibre.

Orange And Yellow Fruit And Vegetables

Orange, the colour of a blazing hot sun, is a must have in your daily diet. Orange vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, mangos, carrots, and apricots, contain beta-carotene. This carotenoid is a natural antioxidant which is being studied for its role in enhancing your immune system. Further to being touted as a powerful health-protector, the orange group is also rich in Vitamin C. Folate, most often found in leafy greens, can also be found in orange fruits and vegetables, and is a B vitamin that can help prevent some birth defects and reduce your risks of heart disease. With a chemical make-up which is this good, make sure to make the orange group a part of your 5 to 9 a day.

Bright yellows have many of the same properties as the orange groups: they are high in essential vitamins and carotenoids. Pineapple, for example, is rich in Vitamin C, manganese, and the natural enzyme, bromelain. Additionally to that, corn and pears are high in fibre. Yellow fruits and vegetables belong to many different kinds of families, but they all share the common bond of being health enhancing with a great taste to boot. So go for the gold!

Blue And Purple Fruit And Vegetables

Blues and purples not only add beautiful shades of richness to your plate, they also add health-enhancing flavonoids, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Anthocyanins, a phytochemical, are pigments responsible for the blue colour in fruit and vegetable, and are under study for their role in the body’s defense of harmful carcinogens. Blueberries in particular, are also rich in Vitamin C and folic acid and high in fibre and potassium.

White Fruit And Vegetables

Vegetables from the onion family, including garlic, chives, scallions, leeks, and any variety of onion, contain a phytochemical called allicin. Research is being conducted on:

• Allicin to learn in what way it can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and increase the body’s ability to fight infection.

• Indoles and sulfaforaphanes, phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, for their ability in inhibiting cancer growth.

• Polyphenols, another important phytochemical contained in pears and green grapes for how they may reduce the risk of certain cancers.


John Rifkind is a contributing editor at This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.