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Do Different Colors of the Same Vegetable Have the Same Nutrients?

Well, yes and no.

Close up of orange and purple carrots

Think of a vegetable and chances are a color immediately comes to mind. Carrots are orange, beets are purple, and cauliflower is white. Right? While those might be the most common varieties, many vegetables actually come in an assortment of colors. And that’s where things can get a little confusing. That’s because the color of produce is connected to some of its nutritional benefits—which is why eating a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables in your diet is recommended. For example, the color of red fruits and veggies comes from one antioxidant called lycopene, while green ones contain different healthy compounds.

So, does it matter if you eat a purple beet or a golden beet? What about a red pepper versus a green one? Here’s a guide to the rainbow of available produce and what the nutritional difference really is. And if you’re not sure which color to get? Just eat them all!

Orange carrots vs. purple carrots: While the classic variety has lots of carotenoids (antioxidants that protect the body from free radical damage), purple ones have a different kind of antioxidant, called anthocyanins, that causes their violet hue. Flavor either kind with ginger and honey.

Purple beets vs. golden beets: All beets contain potassium, vitamin C, and folate, but the purple variety also contain betalain, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from getting damaged. Golden beets don’t have betalain, but they do contain lutein, which can help keep eyes healthy. You can use either color to make these beet latkes.

Green peppers vs. red peppers: You may not notice a huge difference in taste, but red peppers have way more vitamin C and A than the green variety (which is still a great source of vitamin C). Use any color in this Spanish tortilla.

White cauliflower vs. purple cauliflower: The thing that gives purple cauliflower that out-of-this-world hue is its high amount of anthocyanins—the same cell-protecting antioxidant in purple carrots. The white variety doesn’t have it (but, like purple cauliflower, it does have vitamin C and potassium). Try either in this cauliflower gratin.

Green cabbage vs. red cabbage: The more brightly colored red variety wins out nutritionally. That’s because red cabbage has anthocyanins like other blue, purple, and red produce. That said, all cabbage has fiber—1 cup of it chopped has 2.2 grams. Cook them together in this roasted cabbages recipe.

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