Pollan says: “The idea that a healthy plate of food will feature several different colors is a good example of an old wives’ tale that turns out to be good science too. The colors of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain [ . . . ] many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible” (57).
I wasn’t sure what Pollan meant by phytochemicals, but I learned from the American Cancer Society website (cancer.org) that “the term ‘phytochemicals’ refers to a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. Some of the more commonly known phytochemicals include beta carotene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, and vitamin E. Many experts suggest that people can reduce their risk of cancer significantly by eating more fruits, vegetables, and other foods from plants that contain phytochemicals.”
Consider the brown and beige diets so many Americans eat – those completely lack these vital natural phytochemicals that protect us from disease. Of course these colors have to be naturally occurring in nature. Fruit loops, red hot dogs, and orange cheese, although VERY colorful, don’t count! (but you knew that)
The tips are courtesy of Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. New York: Penguin, 2009.
Happy, Healthy Eating!