The old adage, “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away” has some new evidence strengthening its claim, when it comes to Stroke risk–but the evidence does not single out apples alone; it also includes other white fruits and vegetables such as pears and bananas.  Since it is widely understood that the pigmented components of fruits and vegetables are nutritionally beneficial, further research was needed to better understand if a clinically relevant difference between each color exists. So, a new Danish study looked at the incidence of stroke in relation to colors of fruits and vegetables in “Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and a 10-Year Incidence of Stroke.”  They classified them as green, yellow/orange, red/purple, or white, and monitored how stroke prevalence changed, in comparison to changes in consumption of the different classes of fruit/vegetable.

They found that only fruits and vegetables white in color were associated with a decreased stroke risk.  In fact, for every 25 grams consumed per day, a 9% decrease in stroke risk was seen.  On average, there was a 52% decrease in stroke risk in those with high versus low intake.

These findings build upon the growing volume of information on the health benefits from fruits and vegetables of all color.  Despite these interesting findings, they should not be interpreted as one color being more beneficial than another.  In actuality, they are all extremely good for overall health, just for different reasons–the ideal diet consists of a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.  The Canadian Food Guide recommends that we all eat 5-10 servings of fruits and 7-10 servings of vegetables–this is drastically low.  I recommend at least 8-12 servings of fruit, and 10-15 servings of vegetables daily to maximize nutrition.

If you are looking to improve your overall health through nutrition I would recommend trying some foods with these bioactive constituents:

  1. Anthocyanidins: these are found in blue and purple pigments.  They are highly antioxidant, increase vitamin C in our cells, protect our skin and connective tissue, and protect our blood vessels.  They are found in high levels in blueberries and grapes.
  2. Glutathione: this is small protein, composed of three amino acids.  It is heavily involved in reducing free radicals in the body and promoting detoxification in the liver.  In fact, it is among the most important conjugating substances in the body, necessary for eliminating fat soluble toxins from the body.  It is found in high levels in raw apples, carrots, grapefruit, spinach, and tomatoes.  Since it is a protein, cooking readily causes denaturation (breaks it down), so it is only found in substantial levels in raw foods.
  3. Carotenes: these are found in foods with red and violet pigments.  In general, the brighter the intensity for color, the higher the carotene level.  This constituent is highly antioxidant, and is converted to vitamin A in the body.  It is through to play a beneficial role in heart disease, macular degeneration, cataracts, and the prevention of many types of cancer (lung, skin, uterine, cervical).
  4. Quercitin: this flavonoid is found in high concentrations in white colored fruits and vegetables, namely onions.  It serves to reduce inflammation in the body, promotes insulin activity, and reduces allergies by stabilizing mast cells.  It is often used to treat heart disease and asthma


Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke. Linda M. Oude Griep, W.M. Monique Verschuren, Daan Kromhout, Marga C. Ocke, and Johanna M. Geleijnse. Stroke. September 5, 2011.