A favorite way of inspiring our kids (and, let’s face it, our own inner child) to eat healthfully, is to send them on a nutritional scavenger hunt to find fruits and veggies in every color!
Phytonutrients are the chemicals produced by plants that give them their bright color. They protect the plant against insects and UV rays, and offer us increased immunity and improved intercellular communication.
These anti-oxidant rich pigment powerhouses are not just an excellent way to protect against free radicals and other toxins. Some are vital to the growth and development of our little ones.
A few phytonutrients to know:
Beta-carotene: provides red-orange pigment and converts to vitamin A (retinol), essential for vision health, immune system strength, and healthy skin.
Lycopene: a carotenoid and powerful antioxidant, protects skin from sun damage, improves heart and lowers risk of certain cancers
Lutein: neutralizes free radicals, relieves oxidative stress, and reduces inflammation in eyes and brain, lutein is linked to improvements in brain health, cognitive function, memory, and even mood
Let’s explore the rainbow!
Red fruits and veggies tend to be high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against sun damage and is linked to healthier hearts and lower risk of certain cancers.
Raspberries, strawberries and cranberries contain high levels of ellagic acid, another highly anti-oxidative polyphenol with anti-cancer benefits.
Pick your favorites and fill up!
- Red peppers
- Red onions
Rich in Vitamin C (beta carotene), choosing orange and yellow veggies and fruits can improve immunity, reduce risk of heart disease, and promote eye health! As we learned earlier, beta carotene converts directly to Vitamin A, which is essential for the production of white blood cells, immunity, clearer skin, bone health, and healthy growth.
Citrus fruits also contain hesperidin, which improves circulation and is used as a natural remedy for allergies, high blood pressure, PMS, and inflammation.
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash (butternut, kabocha, delicata, acorn)
- Yellow summer squash
- Orange and yellow peppers
- Golden beets
Rich in lutein, isothiocyanates, isoflavones and vitamin K, be sure to get your greens for essential blood and bone health!
Folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, is needed to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, which is essential for fighting free radicals and defending against illness. Folate also converts carbohydrates into energy and produces DNA and RNA.
Folic acid is critical during periods of rapid growth, which means children and pregnant women should focus on getting plenty of greens.
- romaine lettuce
- brussels sprouts
- green grapes
- green apples
Stay young with blue and purple, as they are packed with anthocyanins and resveratrol, phytonutrients with anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.
Phytochemicals in berries are known to repair damage from oxidative stress and inflammation, as well.
Red cabbage is one food found to be highest in antioxidants, so crisp it up in the oven or make a delicious soup and reap the lasting benefits!
- purple grapes
- red cabbage
Even the less-than-colorful veggies are your friend! Protecting against certain cancers, keeping bones strong, and a healthy heart, be sure to get these in daily, as well.
Cauliflower contains high levels of sulforaphane, which contains anti-cancer and detoxifying properties. Eat it raw or lightly steamed to get the most benefit.
Mushrooms inhibit aromatase activity, which lowers estrogen levels, prohibiting breast cancer cell production.
Garlic is packed with allicin, another impressive antioxidant, and onions boast quercetin, a flavanoid known for its anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities.
- daikon radish
It makes a lot of sense that each color is represented in our natural surroundings and that nature would provide all the good stuff we need to stay healthy and protect ourselves against illness.
It’s probably best to avoid Skittles, but feel free to take their advice and “taste the rainbow”!