One of the newest buzzwords in the world of food and nutrition today is phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients or plant chemicals.
Phytochemicals are not classified as nutrients, but they contain nutrients, and offer real health benefits. Food scientists have only lately begun to recognize their significant role in promoting health, and are now categorizing phytochemicals as “biologically active non-nutrients.”
These “non-nutrients” are responsible for giving a particular plant its individual color, flavor and aroma. Many phytochemicals are antioxidants, which are widely believed to help prevent certain cancers and heart disease. A good example is beta-carotene, which gives carrots and sweet potatoes their vibrant orange color. Another well-known phytochemical is lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit.
Many health experts today recommend choosing foods for your diet by color. The blue in blueberries, they say, may be good for your brain. The orange in carrots promotes heart health. As a general rule, the brighter the color of the fruit or vegetable, the better it is for you.
Books have been published on the subject, including What Color Is Your Diet? by Dr. Daniel Nadeau (HarperCollins), and The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health by Dr. David Heber (Hyperion).
In addition to the nutritional benefits, restaurateurs appreciate the splash of color these brightly hued vegetables bring to the plate when paired as a side dish with the typical brown or dull-colored meat protein.
Whether they’re navigating the produce aisle, farmers market or restaurant menu, it’s no wonder more people today are choosing foods by color.
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