Eat a rainbow and Zap those free radicals

We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is the basis of a healthy diet. But to give your health an even greater boost, then eat a rainbow. That is to say choose a wide variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of anti-oxidants. These are the chemicals which mop-up the toxic by-products of your body’s metabolic processes – known as free radicals. It is these free radicals which cause damage at a cellular level, and which in turn can lead to aging, and in the worse scenario, serious disease such as cancer. Fruit and vegetables also contain many other compounds known generally as phytochemicals, and different coloured produce contains different phytochemicals. So by eating a wide variety of colours – the rainbow – you will get a good selection of all of these protective compounds.

Read on to see what fruit and vegetables you should be choosing from the different food groups.

Benefits: Red fruits and vegetables contain “lycopene” and “Anthocyanins”.  Lycopene is found in high amounts in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit. It is believed to help reduce risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Lycopene in foods containing cooked tomatoes, such as spaghetti sauce, and a small amount of fat are absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes. Anthocyanins, found in red fruits, may help fight cancer, keep the heart healthy, improve vision and memory and avoid urinary tract infections.
Choose from:
Tomatoes, radish, Strawberries, Red Peppers, Red Currants, Raspberries, Watermelon

Benefits: orange coloured plants contain pigments known as “carotenoids.” One of the best known of these is Beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body.  Vitamin A helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes amongst other things. It is also important for immune system function.
Choose from:
Carrots, Mangoes, Peaches, Apricots, Turmeric.Orangesdo not contain beta-carotene but are a valuable source of Vitamin C.

Benefits: These also contain “carotenoids.”, but more usually lutein. Lutein is important for eye health.
Choose from:
Sweet-corn, Yellow peppers, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Banana, Papaya

Benefits: Green fruits and vegetables contain “chlorophyll.” Some members of the green group, also contain luteinCruciferous vegetablessuch asbroccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables contain a group of compounds known as “indoles” which help protect against some types of cancer. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of folate, a B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.
Choose from:
Leafy Greens, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, watercress, Apples, Brussels sprouts, green grapes, Gooseberries, Kiwi

Benefits: Dark blue / purple fruits and vegetables contain “anthocyanins.” Anthocyanins in blueberries, grapes and raisins act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. They may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Studies have shown that eating blueberries can help healthy aging and improve memory function.
Choose from:
Black Grapes, Blackberries, Aubergines, Red Cabbage, Blueberries, Beetroot, dark Plums

Benefits: White fruit and vegetables contain “anthoxanthins.” White foods of the onion family are a source of the anti-oxidants quercetin and allicin which are believed to  help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer and heart disease.
Choose from:
Cauliflower, fennel, onion, garlic, mushrooms, parsnip, leeks