The majority of us are now familiar with the 5-a-day message and know that eating five portions 1 of fruit and
vegetables a day plays an important role in helping us stay healthy 2.
What many of us are not so aware of however, is that it is important to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables in order to get the right combination of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients 3.
Including a 'rainbow' of fruit and vegetables in your diet is a great way to make sure you get all the variety you need, as each colour - red, orange, yellow, green and purple - offers different benefits.
Red fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants including lycopene (in tomatoes), anthocyanins (red berries, including strawberries) and ellagic acid (strawberries, raspberries and pomegranate) . Red vegetables, such as red peppers are also other good sources of vitamin A 4.
Lycopene is thought to have antioxidant properties that may help protect against cardiovascular disease (CVD) and has been reported to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol 5.
Orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and sweet potato are high in carotenoids such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which are converted into vitamin A in the body. Once converted into vitamin A, these fruit and vegetables help keep the immune system working properly, can support vision in dim light and can also keep skin healthy 6.
Yellow fruits, such as mango, papaya and apricots, are one of the main food sources of beta-carotene, which the body can change into vitamin A. Green leafy vegetables such as cavolo nero, kale and spinach are other good sources. Vitamin A helps keep the immune system working properly, can also help support vision in dim light and can also keep skin healthy 7.
Leafy green vegetables are rich in a number of nutrients. Green vegetables such as kale and cavolo nero are good sources of vitamins K, A and C and are rich in lutein. Leafy green vegetables are also good sources of folate 8.
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and helps wounds heal properly 9. Vitamin C helps to protect cells and keeps them healthy, helps maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage and also helps with wound healing 10. Lutein is an antioxidant that can help keep eyes healthy. Folate helps the form healthy red blood cells and reduces the risk of central neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies 11.
Blue and Purple
Anthocyanins give blue and purple foods their rich colours. Purple foods such as beetroot and purple lettuce are also high in nitrates. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants, which may have a role in protecting cells from damage. Nitrates may help reduce blood pressure 12.