Orange and Yellow Foods
Eat a Rainbow – Orange and Yellow Foods

The vibrant colours of orange and yellow food look great on our plate but can also help our eyes and skin. Carotenoids, responsible for that bright colour, also make orange and yellow foods a top choice in a healthy, balanced diet. Juliette Kellow Bsc RD investigates.

Eat a Rainbow of Orange and Yellow Food

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Choose From...

Apricots, cantaloupe and galia melon, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, papaya, oranges, satsumas, grapefruit, pineapple, passion fruit, carrots, swede, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, yellow and orange peppers, sweetcorn.

Good For...

A healthy heart, protecting against some cancers, a healthy immune system, good vision and healthy skin.

Why Should I Eat Them?

Most yellow and orange food is packed with carotenoids, which give them their vibrant colour. Three of the most common carotenoids – alpha-carotene, beta carotene and beta cryptoxanthin – can be converted from foods into vitamin A in the body. This nutrient is needed for good vision in dim light, normal growth and development, a strong immune system and to keep the skin and cells that line the airways, digestive tract and urinary tract healthy. But thanks to their antioxidant activity, there’s also evidence to suggest that carotenoids – and especially beta carotene, found in orange and yellow food – might help to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, especially lung cancer.

However, these findings haven’t always been shown with supplements of beta-carotene. In fact, several large studies have actually found that beta-carotene supplements increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers so it’s much better to boost intakes through eating foods which are naturally rich in beta-carotene such as carrots, sweet potatoes, orange and yellow peppers, pumpkin, mangoes, cantaloupe and galia melon and passion fruit.

Beta cryptoxanthin, found in mangoes, papaya, nectarines, peaches, citrus fruits, peppers, pumpkin and sweetcorn, may also help to keep the respiratory tract healthy and reduce the risk of lung cancer. Citrus fruits and their juices are also packed with the phytochemical hesperidin, which may protect against heart disease, and tangeritin, which may prevent cancer of the head and neck.

The zest of citrus fruits is also a good source of limonene, a phytochemical that helps keep lungs healthy and may prevent cancer. Like lycopene, a little fat helps the body to absorb ingredients like beta-carotene from foods so don’t be afraid to add a little fat, whether that’s roasting sweet potatoes with a little olive oil or serving pepper slices with hummus. Chopping, puréeing and cooking also makes it easier for our bodies to absorb and use pytochemicals such as beta-carotene.

How To Eat More Orange and Yellow Food...

  • Mash sweet potato and carrots together and use to top cotage pie instead of mashed potato
  • Swap your regular Sunday roasties for roasted sweet potato
  • Add swede and carrots to Winter stews and casseroles
  • Make your own homemade carrot and butternut squash soup
  • Add grated carrot and yellow and orange peppers to salads
  • Top porridge with dried apricots or add to wholegrain breakfast cereals
  • Make a fruit salad using galia melon, pineapple, mango and orange segments
  • Swap honeydew melon for orange-fleshed melon such as galia or cantaloupe
  • Mix tuna with sweetcorn and use it to fill sandwiches or jacket potatoes
  • Try a baked sweet potato instead of a regular jacket spud.


To find out more:

Red Food
Green Food
Blue and Purple Food
White Food


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