Well, have you already eaten your daily portion of fruit and vegetables today? Ideally, you should have five portions a day, and this has already become common knowledge even among the biggest raw food despisers. That’s good, because fresh fruit and vegetables provide you with lots of vitamins, fibre, minerals and valuable trace elements. But not only the quantity is decisive: Did you know that the colour of fruit and vegetables also plays an important role?
The reason: the plant dyes they contain not only give broccoli, carrot & co. their typical colour, but also have health benefits.
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Colourful = healthy! How plant dyes work in the body
Vegetables (and fruit) are available in a wide variety of colours. The example of the paprika makes it particularly clear: the pods are available in green, yellow, red and orange. Different plant dyes ensure this. Our body cannot produce the secondary plant substances itself, so we have to obtain them from food. However, they are not vital – just like certain vitamins and minerals. Your body still benefits from little helpers.
But don’t commit yourself to one colour: Eat your way through the entire colour palette every week, because this way you will absorb as many plant dyes as possible. If you always eat the same or the same coloured fruits and vegetables, you are eating too one-sidedly.
We will tell you which health benefits the plant dyes bring with them and which fruits and vegetables contain particularly large amounts of them.
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1. plant dyes in green fruits and vegetables
Chlorophyll is probably the best known plant pigment. For good reason, because without chlorophyll we would have no air to breathe. After all, the natural, green plant colour is significantly involved in photosynthesis. In this process, the sun’s light energy is converted into oxygen with the help of chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll-containing fruits and vegetables support the body’s self-cleaning powers © Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com
Chlorophyll-rich fruit and vegetables also support the transport of oxygen in the blood vessels and stimulate the formation of new blood cells. Green foods with a lot of chlorophyll also have a cleansing effect on our body and thus support your next detox treatment in a completely natural way. The plant pigment is also considered a good “radical scavenger”, as it has an antioxidant effect.
This sounds more complicated than it is: free radicals are harmful oxygen compounds in the body, which, for example, cause us to age faster and can even cause cancer by rampaging in our cells. Chlorophyll puts a stop to this and protects your cell membranes from damage.
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These foods contain high levels of chlorophyll
Vegetables: all kinds of salads, broccoli, green peppers, zucchini, spinach, chard, green beans and peas, cucumbers, avocados, savoy cabbage, kale, wheatgrass, herbs e.g. basil, parsley, dill, tarragon, cress and rosemary
Fruit: green grapes, gooseberries, olives, green apples, pears, kiwis, rhubarb
Tip: The darker the green of the respective fruit or vegetable, the more of the plant pigment chlorophyll is contained.
2. plant dyes in violet/blue fruits and vegetables
Vegetables and fruits that are bright blue or violet owe their colour to the so-called anthocyanins. These plant dyes belong to the group of flavonoids. They also have a strong antioxidant effect and – just like chlorophyll – they catch radicals in the body. They protect us from premature skin aging, cardiovascular diseases and have a positive influence on cholesterol levels.
Blue grapes, eggplants and plums contain many anthocyanins © Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com
These fruits and vegetables contain particularly high levels of anthocyanins:
Vegetables: red cabbage, beetroot, eggplants, herbs (e.g. sage and thyme), red onions, Lolo Rosso salad
Fruit: black currants, blue grapes, chokeberries, blackberries, blueberries and elderberries, cherries, plums, figs
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3. plant dyes in red fruits and vegetables
The plant pigment lycopene, which belongs to the group of so-called carotenoids, is responsible for the bright red of tomatoes, chilli peppers & co. Lycopene is also an antioxidant, but not just any antioxidant: it is DER Top radical scavenger and makes free radicals particularly efficiently harmless. The secondary plant substance thus has a protective effect on our cardiovascular system and can even reduce the risk of stroke.
Anyone who eats a lot of fruit and vegetables containing lycopene also provides natural skin and sun protection from within.
Lycopene from tomatoes & co. is a good radical scavenger and is particularly efficient at neutralizing free radicals © Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com
But it gets even better: lycopene also counteracts tumour formation because it has anticarcinogenic properties. In other words: Lycopene is a real fighter dye in the fight against cancer!
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Tip: Often fruit and vegetables lose their healthy ingredients when heated. This is the case with many vitamins. Not so with lycopene: the red plant pigment works even more effectively in the body if the food is heated beforehand. In other words: Eating tomatoes raw is also healthy, but making a tomato sauce from them is even better. When the food is heated, the plant cell structures are broken down and the lycopene is released, making it easier to absorb.
Ketchup and canned tomatoes also contain larger amounts of lycopene than fresh vegetables.
These fruits and vegetables contain particularly high levels of lycopene
Vegetables: Tomatoes, radicchio, beetroot, chilli, red peppers, radishes
Fruit: Cranberries, strawberries, cherries, red currants, cranberries, red apples, rose hips, pomegranates, grapefruit, guava, raspberries, watermelons
4. plant dyes in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables
Plant dyes that give fruits and vegetables a bright yellow or orange are called carotenoids. There are more than 700 of them, such as beta-carotene (precursor of vitamin A) or lycopene, which we already know as the colouring plant substance of red fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are correspondingly good antioxidants, i.e. radical scavengers. They therefore have an anti-inflammatory effect and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
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Even the saying “Eat carrots child, they are good for your eyes!” does not come by chance. The beta-carotene it contains not only gives carrots their typical colour, but can also protect against age-related eye diseases. Carotenoids also act as a kind of internal sunscreen and protect our cells from UV -damage from too much sun. But sunscreen is no substitute for that.
Carotenoids from carrot or pumpkin act like a natural sunscreen © Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com
Attention: Carotenoids can not only colour pumpkin and carrots, but also our skin. If we take up too many carotenoids, the body creates depots – among other things in the skin. In the worst case, this can lead to “carotenoderma”, in other words: your skin turns orange-brown. But don’t worry: you will only achieve this effect if you take at least 30 mg of carotenoids a day. In the long term, these quantities can only be achieved with food supplements.
These fruits and vegetables contain particularly high levels of carotenoids
Vegetables: yellow and orange peppers, parsnip, carrot, yellow zucchini, pumpkin, ginger
Fruit: Oranges, mango, grapes, banana, pineapple, yellow plums, lemons, mirabelles, sea buckthorn, apricots, mandarins, melons
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5. special case: white fruits and vegetables
White fruits and vegetables do not contain any special white plant dyes, but that does not make them any less healthy. Like any other type of fruit and vegetable, they contain numerous (vital) vitamins, minerals, trace elements and fibre.
Garlic and onions are particularly noteworthy. The allicin contained, a sulphur substance, not only provides the typical smell, but also has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. Furthermore, it protects our blood vessels, lowers the cholesterol level and promotes blood circulation.
Vegetables: Cauliflower, radish, white asparagus, leek, celery, onion, garlic, fennel, parsnip, Chinese cabbage, chicory, mushrooms, horseradish
Fruit: lychee, coconut
Conclusion: Do it colourful!
And once again we “preach”: Eat as varied as possible! Because if you eat colourful, you automatically eat healthy. After all, if you include lots of red, yellow or green fruit and vegetables in your diet, you not only benefit from the positive effects of plant dyes, but also supply your body with plenty of vitamins and minerals at the same time. Quite clever!