(NC) - Not all fruit and vegetables are created equal in terms of preventing disease. The most popular fruit and vegetables people tend to opt for are potatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples and bananas. While these choices are good for you, they are not the most nutrient-rich choices. Recent research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that colourful fruit and vegetables are better than others at preventing cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
It is recommended that we use colour as a guide when choosing the 5 to 10 fruit and vegetables per day, as recommended by Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating. Variety is important because all fruit and vegetables contain different combinations of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, eating a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables ensures that your body is obtaining the different vitamins and minerals that it needs. We should still include the colour white in this selection as foods such as garlic, cauliflower and white pears offer protective nutrients.
Here is a guide to help you choose "powerhouse" fruit and vegetables to get the most disease fighting benefits.
Red: Lycopene makes tomatoes and other foods red and is thought to lower your risk of heart disease and protect the body against the harmful affects of free radicals, which may cause cancer. Tomatoes, red peppers, beets and strawberries.
Green: Chlorophyll gives a strong green colour and research suggests that it becomes a powerful cancer-fighting agent when broken down in the digestive track. Dark lettuces, kiwi fruit, spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Yellow: Lutein's powerful yellow colour helps prevent age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that is one of the leading causes of blindness in older people. Corn, papayas, yellow peppers and squash.
Orange: Beta-carotene is the orange pigment that acts as a potent protector against cancer. Carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots and peaches.
Blue/Purple: Anthocyanins, responsible for the deep purple colour in many of our fruit and vegetables, are powerful antioxidants, which neutralize several common carcinogens, help protect eyesight and dilate blood vessels, which may help lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Blueberries, plums, eggplant and purple grapes.
Canadian surveys indicate that most people eat less than five servings of fruit and vegetables daily and only about one-third of Canadians reported eating fruit and vegetables five to ten times a day. Because it can be challenging to meet daily vitamin and mineral requirements, articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association recommend all adults take a daily multivitamin to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.