Do the colors of fruits and vegetables improve your health? The Color Code says yes and explains how! It's an easy, breezily written book, by blueberry researcher James A Joseph; Dr. Daniel A. Nadeau, MD; and journalist Anne Underwood, to help you crack the "code" of the natural pigments in our food.
Here's what I learned: The pigments that color fruits and vegetables help the plants defend themselves against sunlight, insects, bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
When you consume these pigments, they act as antioxidants: They help you defend yourself against free radicals, or oxidants. Metabolism, aging, and toxins produce oxidants, which ultimately destroy your body's tissues. Antioxidants prevent or reverse that damage.
This book reviews more than forty fruits and vegetables with anecdotes and fun nutritional information. It also identifies each food's pigments and other phytochemicals ("plant chemicals"), what the serving size is, its vitamins, amount of fiber, and its ORAC score, which is a measure of antioxidant potency.
There's also an eating program based on colors. You award yourself points for eating fruits and vegetables, with extra credit bonus points. For example, you get bonus points for eating all four color groups (red, orange-yellow, green, and blue) in one day. Recipes are appended.
Green is chlorophyll, the pigment that takes carbon dioxide and transforms it into oxygen in the air and food for the plant. Chlorophyll hides the red, orange, and yellow pigments, this book explains, just as, the book explains, the green in leaves hides the pigments that the colorful autumn foliage displays.
Of 23 covered red and orange-yellow foods, the book identifies the top red fruits and vegetables as strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and red bell peppers.
And, the top orange-yellow fruits and vegetables are oranges, mangoes, grapefruit, carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
Orange, yellow, and many red pigments are carotenoids. Most of us are familiar with beta-carotene, an orange pigment in carrots that our bodies use to form vitamin A. But beta-carotene is just one of some fifty carotenoids with similar functions in the body. Other famous carotenoids are lycopene and lutein, important antioxidants that are described.
Some red foods contain the other major antioxidant type, anthocyanins, which we see as red, blue, and purple.
The top blue-purple fruits and vegetables are blueberries, Concord grapes, dried plums, purple cabbage, and eggplant. These foods have an intense concentration of anthocyanins.
Also discussed are: blackberries, elderberries, raisins, and lavender.
Some seventy types of anthocyanins include the most powerful antioxidants available.
While chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins are the major types of pigments, many other phytochemicals are discussed in this book in an enjoyable, conversational style.
All these phytochemicals defend against cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. If this fun book can help you boost fruit and vegetable consumption and your intake of natural antioxidants, it will be time well spent.