We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy foods that we should probably all include in our diet more often, but did you know that variety is also important? Plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain compounds called ‘phytonutrients’ that contribute to their rich, beautiful colour, as well as their distinct flavours and aromas.


Different foods contain varying quantities of a whole range of phytonutrients, which is why we have such distinct and diverse spectrums of colour among fresh foods. While some fruits and vegetables are a source of more than one phytonutrient, others have small quantities.

Numerous studies demonstrate the multiple benefits of colourful phytonutrients, including working as antioxidants and reducing inflammation. Simply choosing to eat a balanced and varied diet which includes a variety of colours is the best way to ensure that we're receiving the full spectrum of these vital nutrients.

Taco Topped with Sliced Charred Courgette, Black Beans and Red Onion

Which foods contain phytonutrients?

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Wholegrains
  • Herbs and spices
  • Tea

There are literally thousands of phytonutrients found in plant foods, each with a variety of unique qualities and benefits. For example:

  • Red: contain antioxidants such as lycopene (in tomatoes), anthocyanins (red berries), ellagic acid (strawberries, raspberries) and astaxanthin (salmon, prawns).
  • Orange: contain beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body, where it supports eye health and helps to make hormones.
  • Blue: contain powerful antioxidants called Anthocyanins, which may have a role in protecting cells from damage.
  • Green: rich in the pigment 'chlorophyll' and provide a variety of nutrients. Lutein and zeaxanthin rich vegetables such as kale and spinach may be beneficial in preventing and slowing the progression of an eye disease, age-related macular degeneration.
  • White: rich in Anthoxanthins which may have a role in supporting heart health.
Blueberry Smoothie Bowl Recipe with Granola

Remember, even within one colour group, foods will have varying levels of phytonutrients, so it’s still important to seek variety. Some of my favourites:

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Get inspired to bring more colour into your diet with our collection of nourishing colourful recipes.

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All health content on olivemagazine.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. Any healthy content featured by olive is provided as a suggestion of a general balanced diet and should not be relied upon to meet specific dietary requirements. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.


Tracey Raye - Health Editor & NutritionistHealth Editor & Nutritionist

Tracey Raye is the Health Editor for Olive and BBC Good Food. She oversees all health, nutrition and fitness related content across the brands, including the bi-annual Healthy Diet Plan, monthly Health Edit newsletter and health column in the magazine.

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