Consume a whole, plant food and you not only reap the benefits of molecules essential to life, namely the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), you also are the beneficiary of that plant’s lifelong battle to protect itself. To protect themselves against oxidative damage and invaders like diseases, environment, and pests, plants generate compounds called phytochemicals. Consume the plant and the protective effects are transferred to you.
Each phytochemical has its own color, so they are fairly easy to identify. Consume a rainbow of colors and you will be taking in a variety of phytochemicals, each with its own unique health benefit. Over 4,000 phytochemicals and their health benefits have been identified – we will highlight just a few by their colors here and offer some delicious ways to include them in your diet:
RED: Lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit and other red-fleshed foods. It becomes more bioavailable when exposed to heat so be sure to consume a mix of cooked and raw sources. Lycopene has been studied for its ability to reduce risk of heart attacks and certain cancers, notably prostate cancer. Enjoy tomatoes cooked as part of this simple sheet pan dinner: Simple Cod with Tomatoes and Capers.
ORANGE: Beta-carotene can be found in orange-fleshed foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin, squash, and mangoes. It is a powerful antioxidant that may help support the immune system and age-related macular degeneration. It has also been studied for its cancer-preventive effects. You’ll get a double helping of beta-carotene in this Pumpkin Vegetable Curry with Spinach.
WHITE/GREEN: Indoles and other organosulfur compounds are represented well in cruciferous vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collards are all rich sources. These classes of phytochemicals have been investigated for their ability to aid in the detoxification process. Forget the juice “detox” and load up on these foods instead. This Broccoli Currant Salad is not only a tasty way to boost detoxification, but is also a terrific use for that leftover steamed broccoli in the refrigerator.
RED/PURPLE: Anthocyanidins are a class of phytochemicals that have been linked to improved vascular health, impacting heart and brain health as well as blood pressure. They have also been studied for their cancer-preventative properties. Blueberries, beets, raspberries, blackberries, acai berries, and eggplants are all rich sources. Add your berry of choice to this decadent Chocolate Detox Smoothie.