We all know we’re supposed to eat our vegetables. Right? We’ve been told since childhood that they help us grow up big and strong. We have been told that five to nine servings should be our goal. Did you know, though, that it’s not just about how many vegetables you eat, but also what colors?

That’s right! Different colored fruits and vegetables give us different health benefits. How? Well, the pigments that give plants their color are made up of different phytochemicals. The plants use these phytochemicals as antioxidants, protecting them from environmental stresses like bacterial infection and radiation. It turns out our bodies use phyotchemicals in the same way, as antioxidants to protect our cells from free radical damage. As you might guess, different colors of phytochemicals have different specialities:

Green – Reduces cancer risk, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, normalizes digestion, improves eyesight and immune function.

Blue and Purple – Improves memory, nervous system function, and immune system function.

Red – Reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer, lowers blood pressure.

Yellow and Orange – Improves eyesight, immune functions, reduces cancer risk, and helps support bone health.

White and Brown – Improves immune system function, reduces the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancer, protects against other hormone-related cancers.

While the specific colors’ functions are fun trivia bits to know, the take away here is that we should eat as many different colors of fruits and vegetables as possible. This way we can maximize their health benefits. Plus they make our plates pretty. An Instagram-worthy meal that helps prevent cancer? Sounds like a win to me!

Contributed by Rick Elliott, Nutrition Consultant for DietitiansABQ & Eating Disorders Treatment Center, LLC