Eating a colorful diet full of dark greens, ruby reds, and vibrant oranges doesn’t just make good meals, it’s a good way to make sure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients that can help prevent cancer and other health problems.
Plant-based foods, like everything we eat, offer us different health benefits. However, just because two vegetables are green doesn’t mean they provide exactly the same nutrients. The variety of antioxidants you get from a colorful diet doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid a cancer diagnosis, but it is an important tool in your fight to prevent its diagnosis.
Read on for their insights, and aim to eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetables a day from each of these seven color groups (as part of your complete cancer prevention diet). When shopping, choose foods with the richest, brightest hues of the group – the better the pigment, the more nutritional value it contains.
What You Get: Lycopene – Responsible for giving tomatoes their pink color, lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate, lung and stomach. The latest research into the proposed mechanism includes lycopene’s ability to modulate immune cells to suppress tumor growth and progression.
Cooking tomatoes to create tomato sauce increases the bioavailability of lycopene, making it a more powerful antioxidant. Consuming lycopene with healthy fat has also been shown to improve the absorption of lycopene in the body.
Best Red Food: tomatoes, tomato sauce, pink grapefruit, watermelon
What You Get: Alpha- and beta-carotene, part of a larger group of molecules known as carotenoids, protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and lung cancer can prevent. Beta-carotene has been shown to increase absorption when cooked rather than eaten raw. Puréeing can further increase absorption, so a bowl cooking zucchini soupAdding mashed or mashed pumpkin to your smoothies or baked goods can increase the bioavailability of this super antioxidant.
Best Orange Foods: apricot, cantaloupe, sweet potato, carrot, mango, pumpkin, winter squash
What You Get: Beta-cryptotanzine and limonoids – Fortunately, you don’t need to pronounce them to reap their benefits, which include helping lower cholesterol and protecting against breast, skin, and stomach cancers.
Best Orange/Yellow Food: orange, nectarine, tangerine, pineapple, papaya, yellow grapefruit, peach
Have one of these fruits for a snack or drink ½ cup of freshly squeezed juice to reap the benefits of this color.
What You Get: Lutein, zeaxanthin, and folate – The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin support healthy eyes and may reduce the risk of skin, breast, and colorectal cancers. helps the body make and maintain DNA, and when that DNA is damaged, it can lead to cancer-causing mutations. It is especially helpful in reducing the risk of cervical and colorectal cancer.
Best Yellow/Green Food: , green or yellow bell pepper, corn, kale, cucumber, spinach, kiwi, green beans, zucchini
What You Get: Allicin and flavonoids – Responsible for garlic’s pungent odor, allicin has powerful antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, and flavonoids have great antioxidant properties. Both of these phytonutrients stimulate enzymes that can protect cells against carcinogens.
Best White/Green Food: artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic, mushrooms, onions, green grapes, chives, beans
What You Get: Sulforaphane, isothiocyanate, and indoles – In addition to improving heart and stomach health, these phytonutrients stimulate the release of enzymes in the liver that break down cancer-causing chemicals and may even inhibit early tumor growth. Cruciferous vegetables have been associated with a lower risk of lung, stomach, colon, and rectal cancer; The health benefits of vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage have been attributed to their high concentration of glucosinolates.
Best Green Food: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, chard, watercress
What You Get: Anthocyanins—These powerful antioxidants prevent carcinogens from attaching themselves to our DNA and may be particularly helpful in preventing certain gastrointestinal cancers. They’ve also been shown to improve brain function!
Best Purple Food: blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, cranberries, red grapes, red apples, red bell peppers, plums, prunes