What Do Different Colored Veggies Do? Here’s How They Keep You Healthy

vegetables at a farmers market

“Eat the Rainbow”

It’s silly. It’s cheesy. But it’s also a good reminder.

We should be eating lots of different kinds and colors of veggies every day.

Not only does this help diversify our gut bacteria, but different colors provide out bodies with different nutrients and antioxidants.

Eating a variety of kinds and colors of vegetables helps from the inside out- you’ll be looking and feeling your best when you “eat the rainbow.”

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s a quick rundown on the different different colors and the myriad of ways they keep you in tip top shape:


These veggies get their dark hues from the antioxidant Anthocyanin. In fact, the darker the color, the more anthocyanins a food has (This is also a good indication your veggie is ripe and ready to eat!) Purple fruits and vegetables are good for your heart and may protect against cancer.

Examples: Eggplant (especially the skin), blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, pomegranates, even black beans, purple carrots and cauliflower and beets.


Packed with vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, carotenoids and omega-3, green veggies get their color from chlorophyll.

Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower) are a subgroup of green veggies that have especially strong anticancer compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates.

Examples: Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, avocado, cilantro and parsley.


Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables have lutein and beta-carotene which helps protect eyes against age-related macular degeneration while their vitamin C helps with collagen formation, helping to keep your skin healthy.

Beta-carotene also keeps the immune system healthy, has anti-inflammatory properties and may help prevent cancer, particularly of the lung, esophagus, and stomach.

Examples: pumpkin, carrots, corn, many citrus fruits, bananas, sweet potatoes, winter squash


Red fruits and vegetables get their color from the carotenoid lycopene but it’s not just a pretty color- it helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and many cancers (like prostate).  Tomatoes, especially cooked tomato products, are the most concentrated source of lycopene. Red veggies also have vitamin C, folate and flavonoids.

Examples: Tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, cranberries.

White/Tan vegetables

not as flashy as their colorful cousins, white and tan veggies still contribute substantial quantities of nutrients that are often missing from our diets like potassium, magnesium, and fiber.

These pale little guys may help lower the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Examples: Mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic

Ready for a few more fun veggie facts?

infographic on the different colors of  vegetables
Infographic from Moffitt Cancer Center

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