Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants that give the plant their characteristic colors, smells, or tastes. The word phytochemical literally means plant chemical, since the prefix “phyto” means "plant" in Greek. The color and smell of certain phytochemicals may be useful to the plant in attracting bees for pollination. Some phytochemicals protect plants from destructive insects and microbes. Colorful pigments in skin of fruits and vegetables protect the plant from sun damage.
The color of a plant indicates which phytochemicals there are, what nutritional value the plant has. Eat a variety of colors to get the full range of phytochemicals in your diet.
Red fruits and vegetables contain a powerful carotenoid called lycopene. Lycopene is associated with a reduced risk of many types of cancers, particularly prostate cancer.
Lycopene is also linked to a decreased risk of heart disease. ...view middle of the document...
Beta-carotene is the most well-known, and well-studied carotenoid. Found in carrots, squash, pumpkin, and spinach, it has twice the vitamin A activity of Alpha-carotene. Beta-cryptoxanthin is another strong antioxidant the prevents free radicals damage. Beta-cryptoxanthin can be found in many vegetables and fruits such as oranges, mango, papaya, peaches, bell peppers, melon, and corn.
Carotenoid Zeaxanthin is not provitamin A; however it has been shown to reduce the risk of arthritis. Zeaxanthin may help to prevent macular degeneration of the eye, and reduce the risk for certain types of cancer. Zeaxanthin is found in green leafy vegetables, colorful fruits, marigold flowers, and also in egg yolks.
Green plants colorful plant pigments Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a class of phytochemicals that is responsible for giving plants their green pigment. Studies have found that chlorophyll has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound-healing properties.
Many green plants contain Isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates give a flavor of hotness to horseradish and radishes and onions and mustards. Isothiocyanates are powerful anti-cancer compounds. Isothiocyanates can be found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, collards, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radish, turnip and watercress.
Many Purple, Blue, and Red plants contain water soluble pigments called anthocyanins. The word anthocyanin is derived from two Greek words, “anthos” meaning flower, and “kyanos” meaning blue. Anthocyanins are blackberries, blueberries, black raspberries, strawberries, and red grapes. The skin of purple eggplant contains a powerful antioxidant called "nasunin". This anthocyanin, which gives eggplant its dark color, is said to benefit health by preventing iron accumulation in the body. Nasunin may reduce the risk of certain cancers by blocking the formation of blood vessels that feed malignant cells. Nasunin is also believed to protect brain lipids, prevent the peroxidation of cholesterol, improve blood circulation, and prevent arthritis caused by iron build up in joints.
White plants contain flavonoids. There are over 6000 different flavonoids, and they are found in virtually all plants.