Like flashy male birds, brightly colored vegetables lure you in with their visual appeal. The pretty colors are a signal that the vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients. Succumbing to the attraction offers many health benefits, including help in lowering cholesterol levels, keeping eyes and bones healthy, and the possibility of the prevention of a host of health issues, from heart disease to diabetes. Aim for at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day, recommends the Harvard School of Public Health.
The American Dietetic Association notes that red vegetables contain nutrients that are good for your heart and eyes and may even lower your risk of developing cancer. Look for firm and shiny red peppers, which are a good source of vitamins A and C. Beets, red onions and tomatoes cover many shades of red. Cooked tomatoes and red potatoes contain potassium, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes is helpful for blood pressure. Don't peel red potatoes in order to gain maximum health benefits.
Orange is an attractive and appetizing color in vegetables, which generally indicates the presence of vitamin A. Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin are a great source of the vitamin that promotes healthy eyes and skin and boosts the immune system. Winter squash, such as butternut and acorn, also contain vitamin A. Orange bell peppers provide vitamin C and potassium is found in sweet potatoes.
Yellow vegetables are a bright addition to a meal and offer many nutrients. Spaghetti squash provides vitamin A and fiber, while yellow bell peppers contain vitamin C. The Harvard School of Public Health notes that corn and yellow summer squash hold lutein and zeaxanthin, which are pigments that fight free radicals that can damage your eyes. Look for yellow beets in season, which, when steamed, cooled and diced, make a good addition to salads.
It's easy to find every shade of green in the produce aisle, from light green artichokes to dark, leafy greens. Artichokes are a good source of fiber, while the greens, from kale and chard to collard and beet greens, are an important source of potassium, vitamin A and folate. Folate is especially important for pregnant women and may help prevent birth defects, according to the CDC. Spinach and asparagus also contain folate. Broccoli, green peppers and brussels sprouts are excellent sources of vitamin C.
Purple seems like a whimsical color in a vegetable, but there's nothing funny about the vitamins it contains. The American Dietetic Association points out that eggplant and purple potatoes contain antioxidants that work to improve memory and the health of your urinary tract. Leave the peel on purple vegetables to maximize the benefits. Purple cabbage is a good source of vitamin A. To keep that bright color from fading when cooking, add a little acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruit & Vegetable Benefits
- American Dietetic Association; Let Color Be Your Guide to Nutritious Meals and Eat Right With Color During National Nutrition Month; February 2011
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vegetables and Fruits: Get Plenty Every Day
- A Healthier Michigan; 10 Reasons to Eat Orange and Yellow Fruits and Veggies; Grace Derocha; March 2011