At a glance
Eating the "Betsy Ross" Way
Fruits and vegetables come in a variety of colors. Each color contains different nutrients, so not only is a rainbow-colored assortment of fruits and veggies pleasing to the eye, but it is a well-rounded, healthy one as well!
For example, red fruits and vegetables such as cranberry, pomegranate, and tomato all get their red hue from a pair of antioxidants: lycopene and anthocyanin. Both are strong antioxidant compounds that have been shown to possess several health benefits.
The same goes for other colored fruits and vegetables: each color nutritionally supports your health in their own way.
And with summer in full swing — and the Fourth of July as its centerpiece — we’ve decided to round up the top red, white, and blue fruits and vegetables for you! Look to incorporate these fun-shaded, healthy treats into your diet all season long.
According to Food & Nutrition Research, a peer-reviewed journal focused on human nutrition, the anthocyanin, lycopene, and other nutrients found in red foods are colored pigments that possess health benefits including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Further, anthocyanins have been widely studied for their role in preventing cardiovascular-related diseases.
Here are 3 of our favorite red foods of summer:
- Sure, cranberries are tangy, delicious, and boast a bright-red exterior akin to that of a classic sports car, but they’re also packed with antioxidants.
- Cranberries contain naturally derived plant compounds called phytonutrients that possess strong antioxidant activity. And the health benefits of antioxidants cannot be undersold: they protect our cells and tissue against the harmful effects of free radicals.
- Without antioxidants to protect us, these built-up free radicals cause oxidative stress on our cells and tissue, which could lead to premature cell aging and DNA damage.
- An ancient fruit that is cultivated primarily in Asia and the Mediterranean, the antioxidative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties of the pomegranate have been at the forefront of recent scientific studies.
- Pomegranate presents extremely high antioxidant and microbial properties and, like the cranberry, contain phytonutrients that help protect us from oxidative stress.
- This powerful red fruit is enjoyed as juice as well. In fact, pomegranate juice contains three times more antioxidants than both red wine and green tea. It also has been shown to possess significantly higher levels of antioxidants than commonly consumed fruit juices such as orange, grapefruit, and grape juice.
- Considered a fruit by botanists but a vegetable by nutritionists, the tomato is no stranger to controversy. What is not up for discussion, however, is the role it plays in our health. Tomatoes contain a wealth of vitamins including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, along with potassium, magnesium, and B-Vitamins.
- Tomatoes are also a good source of fiber (two grams per serving) and can be a source of a variety of health benefits such as support for healthy skin and strong bones according to Michigan State University.
- The Canadian Medical Association Journal states that lycopene is one of the most potent antioxidants among dietary carotenoids. The lycopene found in tomatoes can be highly effective in neutralizing free radicals.
You may have noticed a trend among the health benefits of red fruits and vegetables. That’s because those bright red foods all contain antioxidants that protect our bodies from free radicals caused by pollution, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and more.
You’ll also notice a trend among white-colored fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, mushroom, and onion as well. These particular fruits and veggies contain nutrients that are known to lower the level of bad cholesterol and blood pressure, boost immune health, and even help in the fight against heart disease.
- Like each red-colored fruit and vegetable listed above, cauliflower is a good source of antioxidants. However, this white-colored veggie is also high in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, sulfur compounds that support enzymatic reactions that help protect your cells from damage. Further, cauliflower contains Vitamin C, an essential nutrient needed for multiple biochemical and physiological processes in the body, including protection for the immune system.
- In a study titled, “Modulation of Arachidonic Acid Metabolism in the Rat Kidney by Sulforaphane: Implications for Regulation of Blood Pressure,” researchers found that sulforaphane, the main active ingredient in cauliflower, demonstrated blood-pressure lowering benefits in hypertensive rats. However, it is worth noting that the study “significantly exceeded the concentration that is possible to achieve from an average daily consumption of cruciferous vegetables.”
- In other words, the study acknowledged that it used much greater amounts of sulforaphane than what you’d normally consume following the daily recommended intake of cauliflower.
- Mushrooms have been lauded for their healing and cleansing properties in traditional and folk medical practices for thousands of years. Today, these nutrient-rich fungi have been shown to boost immunity, provide antioxidants, and more.
- A 2015 clinical study conducted at the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that daily consumption of shiitake mushrooms resulted in improved immunity.
- What’s more, mushrooms have been shown in two epidemiological studies to demonstrate protective effects on the brain in older adults, though more study is needed to determine the mechanism of action.
- This multi-layered vegetable contains a variety of nutrients including quercetin — a valuable flavonoid that acts as an antioxidant. And though it does produce a chemical that may irritate your eyes, the onion is nothing to cry about.
- Quercetin contains unique biological properties that may have beneficial effects on inflammation and immunity in both mental and physical performance, according to Nutrients, a peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers all aspects of nutrition.
- White in color and sweet in taste, onions are healthy raw or cooked. Onions are a source of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and folic acid, as well as calcium and iron.
The last, but certainly not least, colored fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your diet all summer long is blue. We all know that blueberries are perhaps the most enjoyed among blue fruit. And while that is probably the case, let’s look at a variety of other blue foods too.
Blueberries, blackberries, Concord grapes, and figs all get their vibrant color from beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. But these plant compounds offer more than what meets the eye, as they are thought to smooth out digestive function, promote brain health, and more.
- There are multiple reasons why the blueberry is one of the most consumed fruits in the United States. Aside from having “blue” in its name, this small but powerful berry is low in calories, low in fat, and high in antioxidants.
- Advances in Nutrition, an international review journal focused on key findings in the field of nutrition science, discussed how blueberries support your health in “Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins.” Here, they reviewed the role of blueberries in cardiovascular health, cognitive performance, vision, and more.
- Plus, the fiber, polyphenols, and anthocyanins in blueberries help feed the bacteria in your gut to promote healthy digestion.
- This sweet, dark-blue berry provides multiple health benefits thanks to its rich assortment of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The blackberry contains fiber that helps our digestion, antioxidants that help defend our cells and tissue against oxidative stress, and anthocyanins to support heart health.
- Though green leafy vegetables are perhaps most closely associated with Vitamin K, blackberries, contain this essential vitamin for blood clotting as well.
- Blackberries are low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, which makes the berry a preferred option in keto diets.
- Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian, certified strength and condition specialist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics, states: “grapes, especially the Concord grape variety, contain phytonutrients, including phenols, polyphenols, resveratrol and carotenoids."
- Concord grapes also contain fiber, which helps our bodies digest. And though one cup of grapes doesn’t contain a ton of fiber, Rumsey noted that grapes are easy to snack on, and when combined with other foods high in fiber, it can help support our regularity and colorectal health.
- As for the role of this blue-colored fruit in brain health, researchers found that Concord grape juice can improve aspects of cognitive performance and mood in healthy young adults.
- Fresh figs are low in calories and high in multiple vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and copper. However, it is worth noting that dried figs are high in calories and sugar.
- Figs also contain fiber. In a 2018 trial using rats, fig fruit extract helped accelerate the movement of food through the digestive tract. This helped reduce constipation and improve symptoms of digestive disorders. And anyone who has eaten figs on a regular basis will probably attest to that effect as well.
- Though more research is needed to determine the health benefits of figs on other areas of health, it was involved in a study involving a combination of fruit extracts that displayed antioxidant effects on skin cells, decreased collagen breakdown, and even improved wrinkle appearance in animals.
Eat The Colors of The Flag for Your Health
We all know that fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our daily wellbeing. But not everyone knows what’s inside those healthy food choices. After all, most fruits and veggies contain a wide array of nutrients, so keeping track can become difficult.
But what’s inside only scratches the surface, the outside of your food matters as well!
You see, the color of each fruit and vegetable is caused by specific phytonutrients and other natural chemicals that are responsible for the bright red shine of cranberries, dark blue hue of blackberries, and even the plain white exterior of cabbage! Simply put: the color of our fruits and veggies matters, and each color gives you an idea as to what aspect of our health it supports.
So, before you fire up the barbeque, organize a game of cornhole, and watch fireworks with friends and family, be sure to add these healthy red, white, and blue fruits and veggies to your diet!