Healthy eating advocates will say good nutrition is not a black-and-white issue. It’s in our best interest to fill our grocery carts with an assortment of colorful vegetables and fruits as a pathway to #eattherainbow. Many of the pigments that the stars of the produce aisle glean their dynamic shades from are considered powerful antioxidants that offer health benefits to our bodies.
Antioxidants are a class of compounds that hunt down and mop up free radicals, thereby preventing them from damaging our cells and spurring on inflammation. The end result of a diet rich in antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols is likely a lower risk for maladies including cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
A 2019 study in the journal Nature Communications found that individuals who habitually consumed a higher intake of flavonoid-rich foods, such as apples and broccoli, had a reduced likelihood of dying from two of the biggest killers in society today: cancer and heart disease. A daily flavonoid intake of nearly 500 milligrams was associated with the lowest risk for cancer- and heart disease-related mortality. You can reach this mark by consuming at least four to five servings of colorful veggies and fruits each day.
Some colors work together synergistically for a more powerful health punch. You can also eat more of these antioxidants by looking for ways to up the color factor of other plant foods such as trying red quinoa instead of the beige variety or sprinkling green pistachios over your next bowl of oatmeal.
The more diversity of cheery colors you consume the better. A watershed study from Colorado State University found that women who ate a greater botanical diversity of fruits and vegetables, and in turn a greater range of antioxidants, experienced lower levels of DNA oxidation, an indication of free radical damage and accelerated aging, than those who ate a lower variety of items from the plant kingdom and, therefore, a reduced diversity of phytochemicals.