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Growing up, our parents always encouraged us to eat our vegetables and fruits. For generations, we raised our children to believe that veggies and fruits are super foods that make us strong (even popular cartoon, Popeye enforces that belief!). Knowing that, we are faced by one ultimate question - which vegetable/fruit will provide us the right nutrients? Are all vegetables and fruits the same? Do they contain the same essential nutrients needed for our body to grow healthily?
We did some digging and found one of the easiest ways nutritionists around the world use as a guideline to ensure we get a balanced fruit and vegetable diet: the Fruit and Vegetable Rainbow.
Fruit and vegetables fall into five different colour categories: red, purple/blue, orange, green and white/brown. 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.
Red fruits and vegetables are coloured by a natural plant pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. They also have Anthocyanin present (though lower than that of purple/blue fruits and vegetables).
Example: Tomato, Red Apples, Red Capsicum, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Cherries, Watermelon
The plant pigment anthocyanin is what gives blue/purple fruits and vegetables their distinctive colour. Anthocyanin acts as a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage. The darker the blue/purple hue, the higher the concentration of Anthocyanins. They are also rich in flavonoids (also a type of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables).
Example: Beetroot, Red Cabbage , Eggplant, Blackberries, Blueberries, Purple Grapes
Carotenoids give this group their vibrant colour. Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene are all orange-friendly carotenoids, which can be converted in the body to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes.
Example: Carrots, Lemons, Sweet Potato, Rock Melon, Pumpkin, Mangoes, Oranges, Pineapples
Green vegetables contain a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids, indoles and saponins, all of which have anti-cancer properties. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are also excellent sources of folate.
Health benefits :
Example: Spinach, Asparagus, Avocados, Broccoli, Peas, Green Apples, Kiwi, Celery
White fruits and vegetables derive their colour from the phytochemicals called “anthoxanthins”. White fruits and vegetables contain a range of health-promoting phytochemicals such as allicin (found in garlic) which is known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some members of the white group are also a good source of potassium.
Example: Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Garlic, Bananas, Potatoes, Dates, Onions, Ginger, Turnip
The Australian dietary guidelines recommend that adults eat at least five kinds of vegetable and 2 kinds of fruit every day. Of that recommendation, try to include all the colours of vegetable and fruits on your plate. Keep in mind that children have a smaller stomach capacity and higher energy need than adults. They cannot eat the same serving sizes as adults.
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.