Eat A Rainbow, Part 3: Health Benefits Of Yellow/Orange Foods

Friday, December 15, 2006 - 10:04am

By Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD

In Parts 1 and 2, you learned why and how you should include more reds and greens into your diet. This article explains what’s so great about the yellow and oranges.

Is fresh food always best?

Although people often worry about eating fresh fruits and veggies, the most important thing is to eat more fruits and veggies. It’s less important whether they’re fresh, frozen, or canned. Canned veggies often contain lots of added salt, so if you’re watching your sodium intake rinse them or buy salt-free. Canned fruits are often swimming in heavy syrup (which adds calories and sugar), so be sure to buy it canned in juice. Just taking these precautions will ensure your canned foods are healthier. Also, frozen produce is a great find; it’s inexpensive and available year-round (unlike many fresh items). Moreover, it’s usually frozen immediately after being picked, which can make it more nutritious than the aging fruit in the produce section.

What’s in the yellow foods and orange foods?

You’ve probably heard of beta-carotene, which is a primary nutrient responsible for the bright orange and yellow colors in foods. A related nutrient is alpha-carotene. Both alpha- and beta-carotenes provide health benefits in their own right. In addition, the body converts them into vitamin A. One of the vital ways that vitamin A benefits the body is by maintaining the linings of the organs (e.g. eyes, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and intestinal tract). When these tissues are healthy, bacteria have difficulty growing and viruses are prevented from attacking and making us sick.

Diets rich in alpha- and beta-carotenes have been linked with lower risks of certain cancers and a lower risk of heart disease. These antioxidants are also key players in the health of the immune system, eyes, skin and bones. Moreover, they may help slow the aging process, therefore slowing or stopping the development of age-related diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Yellow and orange foods to eat

  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Bananas
  • Butternut squash
  • Yellow peppers
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Yellow wax beans

Ways to boost your yellow and orange food intake

  • For a snack, cut up some mangoes, papaya and pineapple, mixing them in a bowl for a tropical treat.
  • Dice yellow peppers and sprinkle them on top of a homemade pizza.

For more information on food colors and health see the following article from TheDietChannel: Prevent Cancer & Heart Disease with Phytochemicals.