Vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables contain high levels of phytonutrients – which lend plants a rich hue and protect your health by reducing susceptibility to disease. For optimal nutrition, combine them in one meal. “The more colors you eat at once, the more powerful the phytonutrients are, because of the synergy that happens,” says Steven Pratt, MD, a California-based nutrition expert and author of Super Health: 10 Simple Steps, 6 Easy Weeks, 1 Longer, Healthier Life.
Many of these brightly colored fruits boast anti-inflammatory properties which make them a great addition to your arthritis diet. So splurge on color at the produce department and reap the benefits of different types of phytonutrients.
Anthocyanins boasts strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activities. They also promote circulatory function and helps cuts the risk of stroke by inhibiting clot formation.
What to eat: All types of berries, dark plums, tart or sour cherries (not maraschino), deep red/purple cabbage, eggplant, purple grapes, figs and prunes.
Anthocyanins can also be found in many red fruits. Quercetin is a flavanol that has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke). Some red foods also contain lycopene that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and some eye disorders.
What to eat: Cranberries, red apples, red onions, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes (especially purees and juices), beets, red peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit.
Sulphoraphane belongs to the family of isothiocyanates and has been shown to slow down the destruction of cartilage in joints associated with osteoarthritis and help protect against various forms of cancer. Green leafy vegetables also have quercetin as well as lutein, which helps keep eyes healthy.
What to eat: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens and turnips
Beta-carotene helps reduces the risk of heart disease, may improve immune functions and helps maintain healthy eyes. Some orange and yellow foods also contain lycopene.
What to eat: Citrus fruits, apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, pumpkin, yellow summer or winter squash and yellow tomatoes.
White fruits and vegetables are “colored” by pigments called anthoxanthins. One of the most beneficial anthoxanthins is quercetin which has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce heart disease. Some members of the white group are also rich in potassium which is essential for the body’s growth and maintenance.
What to eat: cauliflower, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, white potatoes, jicama, mushrooms, parsnips and bananas
Maximizing the benefits
Boiling or cooking these vegetable with high heat and baking fruits weakens their beneficial properties so try to eat them raw or lightly steamed. You’ll preserve fiber content if you limit peeling. Also try to get these nutrients in foods rather than through supplements.