Not all fruits and vegetables are created equal in terms of preventing disease, and it seems that people consistently opt for relatively nutrient-poor choices, such as corn, potatoes, iceberg lettuce, apples and bananas. Research suggests that people get the most disease-fighting benefits if they opt for so-called "powerhouse" choices that are rich in vitamins, beta carotene and fibre, such as dark green and leafy vegetables, carrots and cauliflower.
The best way to keep track of which fruits and vegetables are better than others at preventing cancer, heart disease and other ailments is to separate them by colour.
- White: Opt for cauliflower more often than potatoes, onions or mushrooms.
- Green: Select dark lettuces, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which are healthier than iceberg lettuce and green beans.
- Yellow and Orange: Choose carrots, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit more often than corn or bananas.
- Red: Eat tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries instead of apples.
In the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers reported that people often choose the wrong fruits and vegetables because they get the wrong information about what they should eat. For instance, the U.S. Food Guide Pyramid provides only "general guidance" about diet. The pyramid recommends at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and says little about which provide the most disease-fighting benefits.
The "5 A Day The Colour Way" program, a revised form of a national program designed to help prevent cancer, includes recommendations for specific vegetables in the dark and leafy category, and which yellow or orange fruits and vegetables people should choose, but includes no guidelines on which cruciferous foods are better than others.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.