By EatingWell Editors, EatingWell In Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook (2009)
Did you know that you can get what your body needs just by eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables? Nature has found a clever way to highlight the nutrients in foods: different nutrients actually impart different colors to the foods they’re in. For instance, the anthocyanins that turn blueberries blue can also keep your mind sharp, the lycopene that turns watermelon and tomatoes red may also help protect against prostate and breast cancers, and the beta carotene that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange can help keep your bones strong, your eyes healthy and boost your immune system. While fresh fruits and vegetables are great in season, frozen ones are convenient to keep on hand and just as nutritious. So load up!
Blue, purple and deep-red fruits and vegetables are full of anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, antioxidants associated with keeping the heart healthy and the brain functioning optimally.
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Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, provide compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates, which may help prevent cancer by amping up the production of enzymes that clear toxins from the body.
Many yellow and green vegetables are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that accumulate in the eyes and help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people. Leafy greens are also rich in beta carotene. (Click here for 5 foods to eat to help your eyes.)
Next: Orange »
Alpha and beta carotene make foods like carrots and sweet potatoes so brilliantly orange. The body converts these compounds into the active form of vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes, bones and immune system healthy. These phytochemicals also operate as antioxidants, sweeping up disease-promoting free radicals.
Next: Red »
Red foods, such as tomatoes and watermelon, contain lycopene, a phytochemical that may help protect against prostate and breast cancers.