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Feature Articles: Eating Well


Plant Pigments can be Cancer Fighters


Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


Health and medical professionals have long been touting the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables for health. That is because we know that diets rich in plant-based foods help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Researchers from Ohio State University have been conducting cancer research with anthocyanin pigments getting positive results.


Anthocyanin pigments are responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their dark red or blue coloring. Some examples of foods in this category are blueberries, black currant, elderberries, plums and strawberries. In the Ohio study, black carrots and radishes slowed cancer growth by 50 to 80%. The studies were conducted on human colon cancer cells grown in the laboratory.


The leaders of the study did not recommend that people choose one fruit of vegetable over another. They say more research needs to be done.


Anthocyanins are just one group of phytochemicals. The word phyto means plant. We know that phytochemicals are abundant in plant-based foods. We also know that they provide many healthful benefits that we learn more about as more research is conducted.

Nutritionists have long advised that eating the food to get a particular nutrient is better than trying to take a pill to gain the benefit of the nutrient. This advice was given even before we knew about phytonutrients. It was good advice because we now know that consuming the actual food provides nutrients we never knew existed.


To gain the health benefits of phytochemicals, it is recommended that you eat a wide variety of color when you choose your fruits and vegetables. Color is an indicator of the type of phytochemical found in the plant. If you choose a variety of color, you are also choosing a variety of nutrients.


According to MyPyramid, the average adult should consume at least 2 cups of vegetables per day and 2 cups of fruit per day.


In 400 B.C. Hippocrates said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” In light of on-going research with the benefits of phytonutrients, this is still good advice today.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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