Celebrate the America’s favorite holiday, 4th of July with an explosion of phytonutrients! It is common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are a strong component of a healthful diet and lifestyle. They contain vitamins, minerals, water and fiber which all perform specific tasks and functions in the body, allowing them to run optimally. But did you know that they are comprised of phytonutrients that have powerful potential health benefits?
Read below to find out how to eat the rainbow and what benefits you can reap from including a variety of fruits and veggies into your everyday life.
WHAT IS A PHYTONUTRIENT?
A phytonutrient is a term for a large variety of compounds found in plants, such as fruits vegetables, beans, and grains. Phytonutrients have many proposed health benefits that may improve health.
EAT THE RAINBOW
The bright red color in fruits and veggies is called lycopene, a carotenoid pigment that may promote heart health and prevents prostate cancer (5). Watermelon is a popular summer snack that is a beautiful red pigment packed with lycopene! Some other fruits and vegetables that contain lycopene are grapefruit and red bell peppers and tomatoes.
Anthocyanins are a flavonoid pigment found in fruits and veggies that belong to the red and purple & blue color families. These foods include blueberries, blackberries, plums, cranberries, raspberries, red potatoes, radishes and strawberries. May help improve blood vessels and overall health (5). Pair strawberries, blueberries or raspberries with greek yogurt for a protein and nutrient packed snack.
Lutein is a carotenoid referred to as xanthophylls found in the macula and retina of the human eye (4). Lutein is also found in vegetables such as collard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwi and lettuce. It is known to have positive effects on eye and heart health as well as cancer (5). Add spinach to your favorite smoothie for extra benefits!
The vibrant orange color comes from Beta-carotene which also known as provitamin A, a precursors to the active form of vitamin A, retinol. Found in orange and dark leafy green veggies such as sweet potato, pumpkin carrots, apricots, cantaloupe. Beta carotene may enhance the immune system, vision, skin and bones (5). Roasted sweet potato fries are the perfect side to any lunch or dinner!
Some phytonutrients are also antioxidants. Antioxidants are the compound in fruits and vegetables that may be beneficial in preventing cellular damage. There is evidence that individuals who consume more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk for many diseases. Although, research has not yet known if this is directly related to the antioxidant properties or a different compound in fruits and veggies. Diet and lifestyle choices could also be another consideration (1).
While there may be concern with supplementation of antioxidants, there is no concern for the amount of antioxidants in foods. It is encouraged by the DGA to consume adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables across all eating patterns. A healthcare professional should be consulted for any use of supplemental antioxidants (1).
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR HEALTH WITH PHYTONUTRIENTS
The best way for you to get in your daily dose of phytonutrients is to eat a wide range of fruits and veggies. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends 2 cups of fruit per day and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day for adults (2).
- START THE DAY: with your favorite fruits and veggies. It is likely that if you get a serving or 2 in at the start of your day, you’re going to make healthy choices the rest of the day too.
HALF YOUR PLATE: fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting in the recommended serving as well as providing your body with key vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, and phytochemicals.
EXPAND YOUR PALATE: Take this opportunity to try a new fruit of vegetable that interests you. Our palates are always changing and you never know until you try, right? Or prepare your favorite fruit or veggie in a new way to keep things fun and exciting!
EAT THE RAINBOW: Make sure to consume fruits and vegetables of different colors to gain the benefits of the diverse phytochemicals
The information provided on this website and blog are not to be intended to replace medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Please consult a medical doctor or other health professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.
Antioxidants. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/antioxidants.html. Published March 1, 2018. Accessed June 19, 2018.
Chapter 1 Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns. Chapter 4 - 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/a-closer-look-inside-healthy-eating-patterns/. Accessed June 19, 2018.
Palafox-Carlos H, Ayala-Zavala JF, González-Aguilar GA. The Role of Dietary Fiber in the Bioaccessibility and Bioavailability of Fruit and Vegetable Antioxidants. Journal of Food Science. 2011;76(1). doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01957.x.
Sommerburg O, Keunen JEE, Bird AC, F. J G M Van Kuijk. Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes. British Journal of Ophthalmology. 1998;82(8):907-910. doi:10.1136/bjo.82.8.907.
What Are Phytonutrients? Fruits & Veggies More Matters. https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-are-phytochemicals. Accessed June 19, 2018.