Vegetable Colors and Nutritional Value

Can you rely on the color of vegetables to make healthier choices at the grocery store? Even if all vegetables are healthy, always eating the same ones won’t give your body the diversity of nutrients that it needs.

To answer this question I created a dataset listing 55 common vegetables including their family, their color, and their most popular macronutrients and micronutrients information. The colors are categorized as follow :

  • Orange for yellow-orange vegetables (carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, …)
  • Red for red vegetables (red beet, red bell pepper, red tomato, …)
  • Green for green vetetables (green bean, iceberg lettuce, kale, …)
  • White for white-brown vegetables (white corn, shallots, mushrooms, …)
  • Purple for purple-blue vegetables (purple cabbage, eggplant, …)

I did some exploratory data analysis to help you make the best decision, and I will present the results in this post. Enjoy!

Colors and Macronutrients

Let’s start our analysis on macronutrients : Carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. I will also include a breakdown of carbohydrates into dietary fibers and sugars (the rest being insoluble fibers). Here’s a quick summary of the results :

You most likely noticed a few things :

  • White and orange vegetables are calorie dense compared to other colors. The amount of carbohydrates per 100g is higher.
  • The dietary fiber content of green and purple vegetables is higher.
  • The sugar content of red and purple vegetables is higher.
  • The protein content of green vegetables is higher.

That is useful information! Greens are great for fibers and proteins, white and orange vegetables for their higher caloric content. Purple vegetables are also interesting for their fibers, but at the same time they contain more sugar.

Colors and Micronutrients

Macronutrients are only half the picture. Vitamins and minerals are very important for your health, don’t neglect them!

Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.

Healthline.com

Here’s the summary table for micronutrients (sodium and potassium in mg, the rest is daily recommended value % for a 2000 calories diet) :

Again, we can quickly notice a few things :

  • Orange and green vegetables are the best source of both vitamin A and vitamin C
  • White vegetables are the best source of vitamin B6
  • All vegetables are a really good source of Potassium, vitamin C, and contain very low sodium quantity (perk!)
  • Vitamins D & B12 are always 0, meaning vegetables are not a good source for them (as expected!)
  • Calcium, Magnesium, and Iron, are similar for all vegetable colors.

Conclusion

Let’s now combine our macronutrients and micronutrients exploration into one single summary table :

Vegetable ColorMacronutrientsMicronutrients
Orange– Calorie dense
– carbs
– vitamins A & C
Green– fibers
– proteins
– vitamins A & C
Red– sugar
Purple– fibers
– sugar
White– Calorie dense
– carbs
– vitamin B6

Based on this analysis, it is clear that orange and green vegetables should be prioritized in your diet. The combination gives you a good mix of macronutrients while being high in potassium, vitamins A, and vitamin C. Throw in some red, white, and purple vegetables to diversify and you end up covering a big portion of essential nutrients.

Below you can see some vegetables for each color. For the full list, download the dataset.

GreenOrangeRedWhitePurple
KaleSweet PotatoRed beetWhite CornPurple Cabbage
BroccoliSweet CornRhubarbCauliflowerEggplant
CeleryCarrotRed TomatoMushroomsPurple Asparagus
SpinachYellow Bell PepperRadishesGarlicPurple Peppers
CucumberPumpkinRed potatoWhite potatoBlack Salsify

Happy grocery shopping!

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