Planter’s Row: Our Powerful Produce

By Jessica Pittman
This summer has brought a beautiful array of fresh produce to our dinner tables.  
Our produce might be from our own efforts of gardening or you may have bought them in a grocery store; whatever the case may be, the benefits of consuming produce is immense.  
Researchers are continuously studying the benefits of produce and have discovered natural compounds, known as phytochemicals, which attribute healing elements to our produce.  
Phytochemicals give our produce colorful pigmentation, and ingesting these potent compounds protects our body and strengthens our immune system.
The color of the produce can tell us what phytochemical is present; it is important to eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.  
Red produce has the phytochemical lycopene that may lower the risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Alpha- and beta-carotene give produce a distinct orange color which is converted in our body to vitamin A and then used to keep the eyes, bones, and immune system healthy.  Yellow and green produce contain lutein, zeaxanthin, indoles, or isothiocyanates which aids in preventing certain cancers and can slow the progress of age-related macular degeneration.  
Our blue, purple, and deep red produce get their pigmentation from anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins; these compounds may prevent obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers.
The summer months are most notable for their broad and diverse supply of seasonal produce that is brimming with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.  
Curbing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses can be attributed in part to the power of produce.  
More information on phytochemicals can be found at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/