US Dietary Guidelines recommend consumption of 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The American Cancer Society recommends intake of 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables in a day.

All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have potential anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects, in addition to other health benefits.

Phytonutrients in different colors:

Red: Rich in lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals; seems to provide protection against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease [Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions]

Orange and yellow: Provide beta cryptothanxin; it lends support in intracellular communication and may have a role in preventing heart disease [Carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn]

Green: Rich in cancer-blocking chemicals such as sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens [Spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)]

Blue and purple: Possess antioxidants called anthocyanins that seem to delay cellular aging and help the heart by inhibiting the formation of blood clots [Blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage]

White and brown: The onion family contains allicin, which is known to possess anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol [Onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms]

Our ancient texts and traditions have always advocated the principles of “variety” and “moderation”, i.e., eat a variety of foods, and eat in moderation. A balanced diet includes all seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, white) and six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) for a balanced diet.

They also recommend mindful eating or eating with awareness. Mindful eating means being aware of the hunger and satiety signals of the body. It also means using all the five senses while eating: colors (eye), smells (nose), flavors (taste), textures (touch) and sound while chewing (ear) of the food. Mindful eating also relieves stress and will help to check the rising numbers of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.

The Bhagwad Gita explains how to eat: “While eating, one should concentrate only on eating as the food is served to one’s consciousness” (9.27).

In Chapter 6 Shloka 17 of the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna

“Yukaharaviharasyayuktachestasyakarmasu. Yuktasvapnavabodhasya yoga bhavatiduhkhaha.” This means “the one, whose diet and movements are balanced, whose actions are proper, whose hours of sleeping and waking up are regular, and who follows the path of meditation, is the destroyer of pain or unhappiness.”

(Source: Harvard Health Blog, Katherine D McManus)