The gorgeous colors of fresh fruits and vegetables are great for composing “designer salads”, but the colors are also an index of healthy phytonutrients which are a hot topic in research these days.
Anthocyanins are red/blue/purple — think beets, red grapes (and red wine), strawberries, cherries, red cabbage, pomegranates, plums, cranberries, blackberries, blue berries and raspberries as well as dark leafy greens like chard, kale & collards (the red pigment is hidden by the chlorophyll). In plants, the anthocyanins absorb visible and UV light to minimize oxidative damage from solar radiation. In animals and humans who eat plants, the anthocyanins protect against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. They also reduce inflammation, protect against cancer…
Lycopene is red — think tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit as well as apricots and pink guavas. They reduce the risk of several types of cancer.
Carotenoids are bright orange/yellow, present in carrots, pumpkins, mangos, apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes. They are antioxidants that also help improve communication between cells.
Lutins are green but considered a sub-class of carotenoids. They are present in collards, kale, peas, spinach & romaine lettuce. The reduce the risk of macular degeneration of the retina.
So go wild with color in your salads — technicolor combinations of veggies equals healthy! But don’t stop there. It turns out that herbs are packed with curative compounds, too — so a tablespoon of chopped basil, parsley, sage, thyme or tarragon will not only taste delightful but pack a nutritional punch as well.