Diet and color: Mind the ‘phytonutrient gap’!

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Eighty per cent of Americans are endangering their health by failing to eat a diet rich in specific colorful fruits and vegetables, according to a new study entitled America’s Phytonutrient Report.

The research, which highlights that the color of fruit and vegetables in the diet can be just as important as the quality, identifies what it terms “a phytonutrient gap.”

It’s a problem that affects 88 percent of Americans who do not eat enough blue/purple fruit and vegetables while 86 percent fall short in the white range. 79 percent fall short in the orange/yellow range of fruit and vegetables and 69 percent do not eat enough green produce.

The report identifies blue/purple fruit and vegetables with supplying anthocyanidins and resveratrol and white produce with allicin and quercetin.

Green fruit and vegetables were associated with EGCG, isothiocyanate, lutein/zeaxanthin and isoflavones while red were linked with ellagic acid.

Compounds linked with the yellow/orange range included alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, hesperitin and beta-cryptoxanthin.

The researchers calculated the phytonutrient gap by comparing intakes among Americans who meet their daily fruit and vegetable recommendations for 14 select phytonutrients with intakes of average Americans.

Powerful antioxidants

“Many phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that can help fight the damage caused to our bodies’ cells over time that can lead to premature aging and disease​,” said Stephen Fortmann, director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University.

The fact that Americans are falling short in phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables measured in the report is concerning​.”

The health benefits associated with the color of fruit and vegetables is thought to come from the compounds that give these foods their vibrant coloring.

After examining fruit and vegetable consumption in five color categories, green, red, white, blue/purple and yellow/orange, the researchers concluded that the biggest phytonutrient gap was found in the blue/purple sector.

Amy Hendel, a health expert working with the Nutrilite brand, on behalf of which the study was conducted, said: “America’s Phytonutrient Report illustrates that we need to think about more than just quantity when it comes to our fruits and vegetables…. A daily dose of color could result in positive health benefits​.”

Hendel invited consumers check whether their diet suffered a phytonutrient gap by visiting​.

Heart health

Although many people find it difficult to eat the recommended five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables, Hendel suggested aiming for two fruits and/or vegetables from each of the five color categories. “Phytonutrients offer a wide range of potential health benefits from promoting eye, bone and heart health to supporting immune and brain function,” ​she said.

While eating whole fruits and vegetables first is the goal, natural, plant-based supplements like those made by Nutrilite can help fill the phytonutrient gap​,” she added.

America’s Phytonutrient Report was conducted by research group Exponent on behalf of the Nutrilite brand of vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements. The research used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), surveys that monitor Americans’ daily diet and information from the United States Department of Agriculture.

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