To be sure you get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy and recover from hard exercise, you need to eat a colorful mix of produce. Here’s why the colors matter to you.
Key nutrients: Red produce gets its color from lycopene and anthocyanins. Lycopene, abundant in tomatoes and watermelon, reduces your risk of cancer. Your body absorbs lycopene best when it is cooked, such as in homemade tomato sauce or tomato soup. Lycopene can also help to prevent the effects of exercise-induced asthma for athletes.
Anthocyanins are antioxidants that protect your cells from damage caused by vigorous exercise.
Anthocyanins, found in foods such as red grapes, strawberries and raspberries, are antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. This is very important for active people as vigorous exercise can damage cells. Anthocyanins also help to protect your heart.
Best sources: Tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon.
Colors: Orange and yellow
Key nutrients: Beta-carotene helps to maintain healthy mucous membranes and eyes. It also supports the immune system, protecting active people from colds and other common ailments. Carotenoids help to maintain a healthy heart and lower cholesterol, too.
Citrus fruit is high in vitamin C, folate and B vitamins. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent exercise induced damage to cells. Eating vitamin C after exercise can help to reduce muscle soreness and decrease creatine kinase, an enzyme that causes muscle damage.
Best sources: Carrots, pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes, and citrus fruit.
Key nutrients: Green produce is rich in lutein, which helps to keep eyes healthy. Leafy greens and broccoli are rich in folate, essential for restoring damaged cells after exercise and creating new cells, especially red blood cells. Folate also is valuable for pregnant women, as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects in babies.
Best sources: Kale, spinach, broccoli and peas.
Colors: Blue and Purple
Key nutrients: Like red produce, blue and purple foods are rich in anthocyanins. Blueberries are especially rich in antioxidants, which helps prevent and heal cell damage.
Best sources: Blueberries, grapes, blackberries and plums.
Key nutrients: White produce has long been thought to be poor in nutrients, but this is not true! White fruit and vegetables are rich in anthoxanthins, which help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Bananas and potatoes are rich in potassium, which reduces frequency of muscle cramps and protects the cardiovascular system.
Best sources: Cauliflower, bananas, potatoes, onions and garlic.