Functional relationship of vegetable colors and bioactive compounds: Implications in human health

J Nutr Biochem. 2021 Jun:92:108615. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108615. Epub 2021 Mar 9.


Vegetables are essential protective diet ingredients that supply ample amounts of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fiber, and various nutraceutical compounds for protection against various disease conditions. Color is the most important quality parameter for the farmers to access the harvest maturity while for the consumer's reliable indices to define acceptability or rejection. The colored vegetables contain functional compounds like chlorophylls, carotenoids, betalains, anthocyanins, etc. well recognized for their antioxidant, antimicrobial, hypolipidemic, neuroprotective, antiaging, diuretic, and antidiabetic properties. Recently, there has been a shift in food consumption patterns from processed to semi-processed or fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure a healthy disease-free life. This shifted the focus of agriculture scientists and food processors from food security to nutrition security. This has resulted in recent improvements to existing crops like blue tomato, orange cauliflower, colored and/or black carrots, with improved color, and thus enriched bioactive compounds. Exhaustive laboratory trials though are required to document and establish their minimum effective concentrations, bioavailability, and specific health benefits. Efforts should also be directed to breed color-rich cultivars or to improve the existing varieties through conventional and molecular breeding approaches. The present review has been devoted to a better understanding of vegetable colors with specific health benefits and to provide in-hand information about the effect of specific pigment on body organs, the effect of processing on their bioavailability, and recent improvements in colors to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

Keywords: Bioactive compounds; Bioavailability; Genetic improvement; Pigments; Vegetables.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Healthy
  • Functional Food
  • Genes, Plant
  • Humans
  • Phytochemicals / analysis*
  • Phytochemicals / genetics
  • Pigments, Biological / analysis*
  • Pigments, Biological / genetics
  • Plant Breeding
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / chemistry
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / growth & development
  • Vegetables / chemistry*
  • Vegetables / genetics
  • Vegetables / growth & development


  • Phytochemicals
  • Pigments, Biological