With more and more research into the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables, there is now greater focus on the colours of the fruits and vegetables we are eating so we are fully benefitting from the several phytonutrients and antioxidants available through the spectrum of colours. As a challenge for you this week, jot down the fruit and vegetables you are eating each day and colour code them! Are you getting in variety or are there colours you are neglecting? By focusing more and more on colour and variety you will give your body vast benefits from daily injections of the magical components in the range of fruit and vegetables you consume.
The pigments that give fruit and vegetables their colours and vibrancy are part of a group of phytochemicals that have varied benefits on the body and by eating a broad range of these plant chemicals will enhance your overall immune system, reduce your risks to cancer and cardiovascular disease and help flourish the gut microbiome which has vast benefits to your health also. We are all very familiar with B-Carotene, which is responsible for the orange colour in carrots and its known benefits for vision. But there are several other compounds within fruit and vegetables which work in powerful ways to help boost our overall health and prevent damage to our cells that can be caused by stress , inflammation and infection.
Red fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules that prevent inflammation and oxidative stress. Sources include:
Tomatoes, Red peppers, Strawberries, Raspberries, Watermelon, Apples, Cranberries, Cherries, Grapes, Red onions, Pomegranate, Beets
Orange fruit and vegetables has similar phytonutrients to red rainbow foods, like beta-carotene, which give fruit and vegetables a rich orange-red colour. These include:
carrots, sweet potatoes, mandarins. pumpkin, papaya
Yellow fruit and vegetables are particularly good for your digestive tract. They contain prebiotics that encourage your gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids which helps promote the growth of gut bacteria eg here include :
yellow peppers, lemons, melon, grapefruit, pineapple
Green fruit and vegetables contain nutrients that are particularly good at protecting your cardiovascular system from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (the narrowing of your arteries), and heart disease.
spinach, Brussel sprouts, rocket, avocado, apple, kiwi, kale, broccoli, peas
- Kale is high in vitamins A, C and K as well as antioxidants. Studies show that drinking kale juice could reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol.
- Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains sulforaphane, a compound that may prevent cancer growth.
- Green peas contain a good amount of fibre, which helps support digestive health. They also contain plant compounds called saponins, which may have anti-cancer effects.
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients, including anthocyanins and resveratrol, and have been studied extensively for their anti-cancer and anti-aging properties. Sources include:
Blueberries, blackberries, plums, aubergine, purple carrots, purple cabbage, plums. dates, figs, prunes
White/Brown fruit and vegetables contain different phytonutrients, the main ones being flavanols and allicin. Sources include:
cauliflower, garlic, leeks, onions, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes.
Below are some ideas to help optimize your rainbow consumption
Mixed Salad: ( 5 colours of the rainbow)
Ingredients: grated carrots, red and yellow peppers, mixed green leaves, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and radishes
chop all ingredients and mix in a bowl together.
to make dressing, use 1 part sesame oil to 2 parts of balsamic. Juice of 2 lemons and 1 tsp sumac, add when ready to use
Coleslaw: (3 colours of the rainbow)
Ingredients: Purple cabbage ,white cabbage, onion and parsley
Shred cabbage either by hand or using a food processor, chop onion finely. Mix together and add in mayonnaise. Mix well and top with lots of chopped parsley.
Vegetable and mackerel tortilla wrap: (3 colours of the rainbow)
Ingredients: Yellow peppers, sundried tomatoes, avocado, rocket, basil and smoked mackerel
smash the avocado on the tortilla and add in rocket, peppers and mackerel. Heat on a heated dry pan , fold and cut into triangles.
Kids lunch box ideas and ways of incorporating the rainbow – prepping vegetables and storing in a lunchbox in the fridge will allow for faster and healthier lunchboxes when time is limited. Great snacking vegetables include mangetout, carrot sticks, pepper slcies, cucumber stick and cherry tomatoes.
If you are struggling to eat the rainbow try juicing it or making smoothies and adding live bio yoghurt for greater gut benefits.
For optimal health, we need a rainbow of nutrients and colours.