We all know we should eat fruit and veg, because of their vitamins and minerals and fibre and so on, but have you heard about phytochemicals? Phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, are naturally occurring chemicals that give plants their colour, flavour and aroma. They are produced by the plants in order for them to grow, reproduce, protect themselves and many other biological functions. Phytochemicals are not classed as “essential nutrients” but research has shown that they can strengthen our immune system, help fight cancer and diabetes, support healthy aging and repair DNA.
Rather handily, phytochemicals can be grouped according to colour and function. So, as you will see below, red fruit and veg contain particular phytochemicals that have particular properties, same for orange, green, and so on. How do we reap get the benefits? Pretty easy really, just make sure you eat a range of different coloured fruit and veg each day (making sure you don’t miss any colours out!) to get all the phytochemicals you need to be well and strong.
Purple – such as eggplant, red grapes, plums, beetroot, raw cacao (not dairy milk!)
- Contain phytochemicals such as resveratol and falvonoids
- Fights cancer, supports healthy aging, great for heart, brain, bone, arteries and cognitive well being
Red – such as tomatoes, melon, red berries
- Contain phytochemicals including lycopene (in tomatoes, when cooked) and ellagic acid
- Help protect against heart disease and cancer, support prostate, urinary tract and DNA health
Orange / yellow – such as pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, bananas, peaches
- Contain phytochemicals such as beta-carotene (yep, we’ve heard of that one before!) and lutein
- Great for eye health, immune function and to support healthy growth and development
Green – such as spinach, broccoli, zucchini, kiwi fruit, avocado
- Contain phytochemicals such as isoflavones and indoles
- Help support eye, lung, liver, gum and cell health. Also support wound healing and arterial function
White – such as potatoes, cauliflower, onion, garlic, cannellini beans
- Contain phytochemicals such as allicin and glucosinolates
- Support healthy bones, circulatory system and arterial function. Help fight heart disease and cancer
Whilst we don’t yet know how the phytochemicals work, we do know that they work best when consumed in whole foods (with the exception of lycopene, found in tomatoes in greater quantities when cooked – there’s always one!). So, grab your fruit and veg, and eat the rainbow!