There are few things more appetising than a vibrant plate of colourful fruit and veg – so eat with your eyes as well as your belly. Discover the key players in the fruit and veg aisle and what sort of powers they have to help keep us in good health…
Some fruit and veg can lose nutrients when overcooked so, if possible, eat them raw or lightly steamed
KEY PLAYERS Bananas, yellow peppers, lemons, pineapples.
POWER The range of nutrients found in yellow fruits and veggies varies but may include vitamin C, and B vitamins such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12. B vitamins can contribute to the metabolism, helping the body to get energy from food.
WHO KNEW? Trusty ‘nanas are also a source of potassium - essential for maintaining normal blood pressure.
SERVING SUGGESTION For breakfast, try muesli with sliced bananas, or yogurt with chopped pineapple.
KEY PLAYERS Tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, blood oranges, cherries, pomegranates, red peppers, rhubarb.
POWER Lycopene and anthocyanins are the two main pigments that give fruit and veg its scarlet stain. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that helps ‘mop up’ potentially harmful free radicals before they get a chance to damage cells.
WHO KNEW? Studies have shown that heating foods such as tomatoes allows your body to absorb the lycopene more easily*. Other reds are best eaten fresh, including flavour-of-the-month blood oranges and cherries.
SERVING SUGGESTION Pomegranate is a source of vitamin C. Scatter over salads and meat dishes for a pretty, jewel-like garnish.
KEY PLAYERS Oranges, mangoes, apricots, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes.
POWER Oranges and mangoes contain vitamin C, for normal collagen formation in the skin and to help keep your immune system functioning normally.
WHO KNEW? The orange colour of carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes comes from the pigment beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, to maintain normal vision, so there’s some truth in the saying that carrots help you see in the dark!
SERVING SUGGESTION Grill slices of mango until slightly charred then drizzle with a squeeze of fresh, zesty lime juice.
KEY PLAYERS Spinach, broccoli, cabbage, kale, avocados, kiwi fruit, asparagus, peas, cucumbers.
POWER Greens get their colour from chlorophyll, an antioxidant. Broccoli contains folate, a B vitamin essential for maternal tissue growth during pregnancy. Kale also contains folate, as well as vitamin A.
WHO KNEW? Popeye’s favourite food, spinach, is high in vitamins C and K.
SERVING SUGGESTION Mash half a ripe avocado and spread it on wholemeal toast - no need for butter. Add chopped red chillies or crushed garlic for extra flavour.
KEY PLAYERS Blueberries, blackberries, black grapes, plums.
POWER Anthocyanin, which gives blue fruits and vegetables their colour has antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage.
WHO KNEW? The natural powdery ‘bloom’ seen on some blue fruits helps to keep them fresh – don’t wash it off until you’re ready to eat them.
SERVING SUGGESTION Blitz blueberries with unsweetened Greek yogurt then freeze, stirring every 40 mins, until set.
KEY PLAYERS Red cabbages, beetroot, figs, aubergines.
POWER Dried figs have a high fibre content, beets contain folate and red cabbage has vitamin C, while aubergines are a source of potassium.
WHO KNEW? There are purple varieties of carrots, broccoli and asparagus that contain antioxidants.
SERVING SUGGESTION Team figs with Parma ham, natural yogurt and honey for breakfast.
*Ohio State University 2008.