I have always been interested in food, but in recent years I have become more conscious (most of the time!) about what it is I’m putting into my body. This led to a lot of research over a long period of time around what is and is not good for your body, how to tell, and in what quantities. A phrase I have repeatedly come across is ‘eat your rainbow’. As a borderline vegan, this is quite an easy feat for me, I love fruit and veg and they are the star of most of my meals. However, I thought I would share the benefits of eating a variety of different coloured fruit and veg, and that eating more of a rainbow can bring to anyones diet.
I began this article wanting to explain why all these foods can have positive effects, however it would end up a short (or even long) novel! Therefore, I have settled for telling you what benefits different coloured foods can have, and examples of each. As each different colour of fruit and veg (natural foods) relates to the quantities of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals alongside pigments it contains, eating a variety of different coloured foods gives your body a huge amount of different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. All of which nourish your body. It is recommended that you eat at least 3 different colours of food at every meal, as these different colours play different roles within your body – this may be aiding your immune system, digestion, or contributing to the strength of your bones. These fruit and veg are nutrient dense and contain a whole load of fibre, both of which will do your body a lot of good!
So while technically this post is a little unorthodox, and not entirely biology related, I’ve figured that it relates to the benefits we can get from our foods, all due to biological processes. I apologise to any hard biologists who find this slightly insulting …. but if anything I think it is an interesting topic, which many people are not hugely educated on!
Red foods are packed with phytochemicals such as lycopene, and thus help improve heart and circulatory health alongside memory. For instance, cherries are high in antioxidants which can help protect against heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Red bell peppers are high in vitamin C and fibre, and have been linked to increased immunity, improved digestion and to lower cholesterol. Tomatoes are also notably high in lycopene, and have been shown to reduce damage done to our cells, and decrease the risk of diabetes.
These tend to be particularly high in antioxidants such as vitamin C and carotenoids. Orange foods have been linked to skin and eye health as well as increased immunity and a healthy heart. Carrots for example, are high in vitamin A, helping to maintain the integrity of the skin and oranges are high in vitamins A and C, again linked to increased immunity, heart health and healthier skin. Oranges also have a high magnesium content, which can help strengthen bones and improve digestion.
These commonly contain nutrients which promote good digestion, and as they are high in alpha and beta carotenes, have been linked to improved immunity, healthy eyes and skin. Examples of these are in pineapple, which is cholesterol and fat-free, and high in bromelain. Bromelain, is an enzyme which helps to regulate and neutralise body fluids, aiding digestion. Yellow peppers are also high in vitamins C and A, aiding the immune system and contributing to healthy skin.
Green foods are definitely my favourite, and anything with spinach, avocado or kale in is a winner for me. These contain phytochemicals such as lutein, and have benefits such as improved eye health and strong teeth. Spinach is high in antioxidants and vitamin K, which helps to strengthen bones, while broccoli is high in calcium and iron, linking it to stronger bones and muscles. Kiwi however, is high in folate and vitamin E, which help to decrease the risk heart disease.
These are brightly coloured due to anthocyanins, which have anti-acing properties in the body. They can help promote bone health and have been shown to improve memory and increase urinary-tract health. Although, the main benefit of purple and blue foods is increased circulation. Blueberries for instance, are high in fibre, vitamins E and C, antioxidants and are sometimes referred to as a ‘superfood’. They have been linked to an improved cholesterol and a boost in brain activity. Blackberries are packed with vitamin K which promotes calcium absorption and bone health, alternatively eggplant is high in phosphorus and calcium, again promoting strong bones and teeth.
Hopefully this has made you think about what colour the foods that you eat are, and the benefits that expanding your diet and ‘eating a rainbow’ can have. Hopefully when you sit down for dinner tomorrow there will be a little less beige, and your plate will look a bit more like a rainbow!
sources: as I mentioned, much of this has come from a notebook I have been adding to for a long time, so the exact sources I am not entirely sure of. However, I have found some interesting websites containing similar information.