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Plant Pigments and Their Roles in Promoting Health

October 5, 2011

Credit: Margaret Boyles
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The chart below follows the previous post encouraging folks to eat more deeply-colored vegetables and fruits for health.

It summarizes the main classes of plant pigments (light-harvesting molecules that plants manufacture), the roles they play in plant health, the foods rich in each pigment class, and its potential value to human health.

Bon appetit!

Pigment class

Indicative colors

Roles in plants

Foods rich in these pigments

Potential value to humans


Chlorophyll (fat-soluble) green harvest light; initiate photosynthesis green vegetables help deactivate carcinogens
Carotenoids (fat-soluble: eat with a little fat) red-orange-yellow attract pollinators and seed dispersers

accessory photosynthetic pigment in periods of low light, absorbs excess light energy, antioxidant roles, substrate for hormones
carrot, sweet potato, winter squash, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, apricot protect immune system, skin and epithelial cells, prevent heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration
Anthocyanins (water-soluble: don’t throw out cooking water) blue-purple-burgundy- attract pollinators and seed dispersers

repel predators, protect cells from damage by excess light, improve plant tolerance to stress such as drought, UV-B, and heavy metals, resist disease, scavenge free radicals.
purple vegetables (onions, cabbage, potatoes), red, blue & purple berries, black beans prevent, forestall, possibly even reverse age-related cognitive declines and neuro-degenerative diseases;
improve night vision and other vision disorders, protect against heart disease, insulin resistance, cancer; promote wound healing
Betalains (water-soluble, never co-occur with anthocyanins) red, yellow powerful antioxidant beets (red and yellow), chard, spinach, fruit of prickly-pear cactus antioxidant, may protect against heart disease, various cancers, ulcers, liver damage


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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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realy taking fruits is very

By Dr. Cyprian

realy taking fruits is very vital. And i will nutritionaly advice every humans as a nutritional biochemist to always eat coloured fruits like apple,orange etc along with their food..

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