What Color of Vegetable is Healthier?


A trip to the grocery store leaves you with more choices than ever, even in the produce department. These days, you can buy your favorite vegetables in more than one color. At one time, for example, you could only buy cauliflower in one shade, but now you can choose from cauliflower in shades of green, orange, or purple. The same applies to other vegetables. It’s nice to have so many colorful options, but you might wonder which is most packed with nutrients and phytonutrients? Let’s take a closer look.

Bell Peppers: Red or Green?

Not only is a red bell pepper brighter in color, red peppers have up to ten times the beta-carotene of the green bell pepper. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory activity. Your body also converts some of the beta-carotene you get through diet to vitamin A. There’s another perk to going red. The red pepper has almost twice the vitamin C of the green bell pepper. Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin that helps maintain healthy collagen and supports immune health.

Another tip: Eat bell peppers raw or lightly cooked to preserve their vitamin C. Enjoy red bell peppers with olive oil or another source of fat to boost absorption of the beta-carotene that these brilliantly colored veggies offer.

Asparagus: Green or White?

Asparagus is one of the best sources of a B-vitamin called folate. Folate and folic acid are nutrients that help build fetal cells in the womb and lower the risk of a birth defect called spina bifida. Plus, your cells need folate to make DNA, the genetic material inside cells.

Both green and white asparagus contain folate, but green asparagus contains more vitamin A and vitamin C. Plus, white asparagus is higher in carbohydrates and natural sugars. Another reason people eat vegetables is to get phytonutrients with antioxidant activity. Antioxidants help protect cells against oxidative stress that can damage them. Green asparagus has a higher antioxidant content relative to white asparagus. So, go green!

Cauliflower: White or Purple?

Purple cauliflower looks prettier on your plate and has a nuttier flavor, but do you get more health perks if you choose the purple? That magnificent shade of purple comes from compounds called anthocyanins in purple cauliflower. Anthocyanins are strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory activity. Studies show they may be beneficial to heart health. Although you’ll get a wealth of nutrients, including phytonutrients with anti-cancer activity, by eating any type of cauliflower, you won’t get anthocyanins unless you go purple.

Tomatoes: Red or Yellow?

Color preference aside, red tomatoes outperform yellow tomatoes in terms of nutrition. Red tomatoes have almost triple the vitamin C that yellow tomatoes do. Plus, their red color comes from lycopene, an antioxidant linked with heart and prostate health. Heating or processing tomatoes (tomato sauce, tomato soup, tomato juice) increase the amount of lycopene your body takes up and can benefit from. Choose red and enjoy them cooked. 

Carrots: Orange or Purple?

Yes, you can buy purple carrots these days, and they’re not as sweet as their orange counterparts, but you will get anthocyanins when you bite into a purple carrot. Orange carrots contain beta-carotene, but they lack the anthocyanin punch that orange carrots offer. What you will get from orange carrots is lots of beta-carotene. In fact, orange carrots are one of the best sources of beta-carotene in the produce department. Which should you choose? It’s a wash. Why not eat some of both?

Don’t focus too much on whether you eat orange, purple, red, or yellow. Instead, try to get a variety of natural colors in your diet from an array of fruits and vegetables. They each have their phytonutrients. By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, you get the benefit of nutrient synergy, the positive interactions between nutrients. You may have to search a little harder to find the “purples,” like purple cauliflower and carrots, but you’ll like the way they dress up your plate with beautiful color too.  Enjoy!