Plant Pigments and Their Roles in Promoting Health

July 20, 2017
Colorful Veggies
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


About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.