Part of our ADD society is we want everything on a bumper sticker; just tell me the best Mexican restaurant, the most fuel efficient car, or the highest value school. Athletic performance is no different, as people want to know the best exercise (see Sparta Point 10/9/09) and most recently, I have been bombarded with questions in search of the best vegetable or fruit.
The answer is not simple, and best addressed by one of the national health campaigns of 5 a day, stressing the importance of eating 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables every day. Each color of fruit or vegetable is caused by different chemicals that provide a variety of nutrients.
For example, the purple, blue, and red colors found in foods such as blackberries, grapes, and eggplants are caused by anthocyanins. These compounds increase antioxidants in the blood, which have been proven in numerous studies to help prevent heart disease and cancer. Carotenoids are another compound responsible for color in vegetables, particularly yellow and orange. These chemicals are also antioxidants, so in addition to preventing cancer, they specifically benefit mental capacity and vision.
The brighter these fruits and vegetables appear, the larger the presence of the aforementioned phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins and carotenoids. So don’t get locked into broccoli and cruciferous vegetables alone (see Sparta Point 7/7/10), as you’ll be missing out on the variety of nutrients that other colors provide.
Step 1 for our athletes: get 8 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Step 2: get five different colors among those 8 servings.