Each colour in fruits and vegetables is created by specific phytonutrients, which are natural compounds that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun, and other threats (iStock.com/Bojsha65)
Nature has provided us with a beautiful array of fruits and vegetables in a wide range of colours.
The colour red is one of the warmest and most eye-catching colours in the colour palette and is believed to stimulate the appetite and bring to mind a sense of ripeness or sweetness, especially when it comes to red-coloured fruits and vegetables, whose shades range from pink to scarlet and crimson.
These beautiful shades of red indicate the presence of natural plant nutrients including anthocyanins, betalain and carotenoids such as lycopene.
Carotenoids are a type of pigment created by plants to help them absorb light energy and convert it to chemical energy. Depending on the carotenoid, they give fruits and vegetables their vibrant red, orange, yellow or green colours.
One of the most important functions of carotenoids is that they are powerful antioxidants and protect our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, which are harmful molecules created in our bodies as a result of air pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides, industrial chemicals, X-ray radiation as well as inflammation, infection, or stress. Carotenoids also help the immune system to function effectively and are a good source of Vitamin A. Lycopene is one of the most important carotenoids present in red fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, and guava
The following are some of the healthiest red fruits and vegetables that are a great source of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants:
Strawberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, which are another type of coloured pigments that have been found to possess strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. They are also a good source of minerals such as manganese and potassium.
Manganese plays an important role in maintaining bone health by working with other vitamins and minerals to improve bone density. It also helps vitamins such as thiamine (Vitamin B1), Vitamins C and E to be optimally utilized by the body. Manganese is also necessary for the proper formation of collagen which is essential for maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage and helps in wound healing.
Strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C, which plays a crucial role in building immunity and helping with infection control and wound healing. It is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C also helps the body produce collagen as well as absorb iron effectively.
Strawberries also contain folate/ folic acid (Vitamin B9), which is especially important during early pregnancy to prevent neural and spinal defects in the unborn child. Folic acid also works along with vitamins B6 and B12 to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and also reducing the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that contributes to the hardening of the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks.
Tomatoes are an important source of lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which benefits the body in numerous ways. It is cardio-protective and helps reduce the risk of heart disease, it helps reduce blood pressure, it is anti-inflammatory, it protects the eyes and also helps the body fight infections. It has also been found that lycopene offers protection against prostate and breast cancers.
Tomatoes are also a good source of Vitamin C.
Tomatoes also contain two important carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, that may help protect the eyes from the blue light emitted by devices such as mobile phones and computers. Lutein and zeaxanthin may also help in preventing the formation of cataracts in the eyes as well as preventing an eye condition called age-related macular degeneration, which ultimately results in total loss of eyesight.
Pomegranates are potent antioxidants that are rich in phytonutrients such as flavonoids and anthocyanins. They also contain Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and potassium
Pomegranates have been found to help prevent several cancers such as prostate, breast, lung, colon, and skin cancers. They also help prevent cardiovascular disease as they can lower blood pressure and also have strong anti-inflammatory properties. They also have the ability to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis
Pomegranates can be used in the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
Chart Courtesy: www.onlymyenglish.com
Watermelons are a good source of lycopene as well as the amino acid citrulline which can help reduce blood pressure. They also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamins B1 and B6 and minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
The potassium in watermelons helps maintain heart health and prevent heart disease. The cardiovascular benefits are also due to the antihypertensive properties of citrulline and the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of lycopene and Vitamin C.
Beetroots are rich in vitamins C, A, E and K as well as Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12. They are also a good source of minerals such as manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, boron, silica, and selenium.
Beetroots also contain pigments called betalains.
Betalains are powerful antioxidants. They are also anti-inflammatory and have been seen to offer protection against cancer and liver disease.
Beetroots have also been shown to be beneficial for conditions such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative disorders, type 2 diabetes and may help prevent dementia memory loss by increasing blood flow to the brain.
There are numerous other red-coloured fruits and vegetables that provide a wide range of health benefits. These include cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, red lettuce, red onions, red potatoes, red sweet potatoes, red capsicums, red cabbage, radish, and rhubarb. All these fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients as well as vitamins and minerals.
Various leading health organizations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Heart Association have placed great emphasis on following a healthy eating pattern which includes eating fruits and vegetables belonging to the different colour groups to prevent disease and achieve optimal health and well-being.
Good nutrition and a healthy balanced diet are of utmost importance to our health and wellbeing. As much as possible, we should strive to achieve this through the food we eat rather than supplements. Nutritional supplements should only be taken if they are prescribed by a health care professional after a personal consultation.
Moreover, please seek professional advice before making any major dietary changes. This is especially important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are already on medication or supplements, or are suffering from any medical condition. The information provided in this article is not to be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, especially if you have any concerns regarding your health.
Sandhya Govind is a qualified and trained Naturopath and runs the ‘Sandhya’s Naturopathy Clinic,’ an integrated Natural Medicine facility, which helps people rediscover optimal health, radiance and vitality naturally. Email: email@example.com; The above article (which she sent from Chennai, India) should be read for general information purposes only and not taken as individual advice. Please always consult your GP or other authorised persons or agencies for personal advice. Indian Newslink and Sandhya Govind absolve themselves of all responsibility or liability in this connection.