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The Nutritional Value of Color

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Have bright and vibrant colored foods ever caught the attention of your eye or your stomach? Autumn is a great time for experiencing colorful food. Although we may not initially believe this, our visual experience of food impacts the choices we make when it comes to what we eat. There is a reason for this. We are learning more and more about the nutritional benefits of the parts of plants that actually have the color within them. So what kind of nutritional value comes from the color of food? Let's get into it!

When we think plants we think green, and green foods are filled with numerous vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our health. The darker the green the more nutritious. Spinach has iron, which helps the blood absorb oxygen, and Vitamin E, which helps protect our cell membranes from damage and the build up of LDL cholesterol which should stay low.

With orange foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes, these foods are colored by carotenoids, which are converted to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for eye health, and promotes cell division. This means it helps in the process of cells dividing to make more cells which is especially important in areas like the skin where cell division is frequent. This leads to healthier skin and prevents acne.

Blue and purple are colors that are not very frequent in nature, but we do find them in our foods. In particular, blueberries have flavonoids in their skin which give them their blue color. Flavonoids are antioxidants similar to Vitamin E that protect our cell membranes and DNA from damage from free radicals that can bind to them changing their structure. Flavonoids are also anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous, and they are used in many medical applications as well. This medicine is already in our food.

The colors in food provide more than just a pleasing image to look at when we eat. What is interesting about all this is that we have evolved to recognize and select foods that are more colorful. We would rather have the ripe red tomato or the dark blue blueberries instead of the unripe green tomatoes and berries. When these fruits and vegetables are still green, or not a deep, full color, the nutrients are not fully formed in them and therefore they are not fully nutritious to us. We evolved to recognize when the food is the most beneficial for us to eat.

So when you are making your meals, try to get as much color as possible. Not only does this give you a beautiful plate to enjoy before eating, but it also ensures that you're getting a meal packed with nutrients that will benefit your body and health. As they say, eat your greens, but don’t forget to eat your reds, oranges, yellows, blues, and purples as well.


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Nov 16, 2022

Enjoyed this read very much! I didn’t know the bit of info about flavonoids having anti-inflammatory properties, might just eat a handful of blueberries next time I go on a hike. Thanks for sharing!

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