Red and yellow and
Pink and Green
Purple and orange and blue
I can eat a rainbow
Eat a rainbow
Eat a rainbow too
Taste with your mouth
Chew with your teeth
And eat everything you see
I can eat a rainbow
Eat a rainbow
Eat along with me
I did a little searching on google and found a great article about the importance of color in our foods by Seven Seas Life. Here’s what it talks about.
Eat at least 5 colorful fruits & vegetables a day.
The idea that we should eat at least ‘5 a day’ of fruit and vegetables MUST have got through to the majority of us by now. We know that it is good for us! What is equally important is that we eat a range of different colored fruit and vegetables too. The reason why: fruit and vegetables are different colors because they contain a huge range of different health promoting nutrients. The actual nutrients a fruit or vegetable contains make them their specific color!
As little as 25 years ago nutritional science did not understand the hundreds of thousands of different chemicals in plants. These are called phytonutrients and are central to our good health. Scientists do not yet understand the individual health benefits of these chemicals, but as we repeatedly state on Seven Seas Life – the nutritional content provided by fresh, whole foods will NATURALLY sustain your good health.
We do not necessarily have access to produce that is optimally nutritious but nature has provided a rich variety of health promoting nutrients that we should take advantage of. We should aim to indulge in the full spectrum of colorful fruit and vegetables. So if we are advocating that you should be mindful of the colors of the rainbow on your plate, what do these colors actually mean?
Before we start our review of the colors of the rainbow in fruit and vegetables, it has to be stated that ALL fruit and vegetables contain individual combinations of health promoting nutrients including phytonutrients. This analysis over simplifies the message to make it clearer – the science in this area is ongoing and can be confusing.
1) Red Fruit and Vegetables
Lycopene: is in high concentrations in tomatoes, in particular when they are cooked. Tomatoes are an important feature of the Mediterranean diet, known to be associated with reduced cardiovascular diseaseand lower markers in the body for oxidative stress and development of cancer. The health benefits of eating cooked tomatoes are more significant than supplementing lycopene alone.
Other foods rich in lycopene include: watermelon, apricots and pink guava.
Anthocyanins: Several health benefits of these chemicals are poorly understood, anthocyanins are strong antioxidants but other chemical properties may be responsible for their beneficial impact on obesity control, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and improvement of brain and eye function. Anthocyanins have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-microbial.
Foods rich in anthocyanins include: raspberries, red cherries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, red currant, red cabbage and the widely promoted ‘superfood’ acai berry.
2) Orange and Yellow fruit and vegetables:
The carotenoid group of phytonutrients are responsible for the yellow and orange colour of so many fruit and vegetables. You may know the names of specific carotenoids, for example beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene (see above). There is some evidence that carotenoids can protect against cancer[and cardiovascular disease, although results are mixed and more research needed.
Orange and yellow foods that are rich in carotenoids include: oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash.
3) Green fruit and vegetables:
Green vegetables are well known to be good for you! ‘Eat your greens’ has been a saying for decades! Green vegetables contain plenty of goodness including fibre, minerals, B vitamins, Iron, Vitamins C and E plus Vitamin K.
Green vegetables are green because they contain chlorophyll – and masses of other phytonutrients. The two most researched and well known are:
Lutein: is actually a type of carotenoid, it is found in very high concentrations in the eye and has been associated with lowering risk of eye degeneration associated with ageing and computer exposure; cardiovascular health in particular furring of the arteries; and skin ageing.
Foods rich in lutein include: green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, spring greens) green beans, peas, broccoli – also corn, egg and oranges.
Glucosinates: These are found in brassicas or cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables are rich in folic acid, carotenoids, selenium, vitamin and glucosinates. Brassicas can smell a bit like sulphur when cooked. It is however the sulphur containing nutrients called glucosinates that are one of the reasons for the super-healthy status of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
4) Blue / Purple Fruit and Vegetables
Blue/purple foods all contain many different antioxidants, the most significantly researched being anthocyanins and reversatrol. The health benefits of anthocyanins are briefly covered in the ‘red’ section above.
Reversatrol: blue and purple foods are rich in reversatrol; a phytonutrient with associated anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Reversatrol may reverse cancer development, protect the cardiovascular system from disease and reduce ageing. It is rich in the skin of black or deep purple grapes and in red wine.
Blue / purple foods include: aubergine, beetroot, blueberries, blackberries, black cherries, black raspberries, black currants, plums, elderberries, figs, raisins, and pomegranates.
5) White Fruit and Vegetables
White vegetables especially garlic, onions, leeks and shallots contain a potent phytonutrient called allicin.
Allicin is responsible for the intense flavour of these vegetables – and for many of their health benefits. Garlic is a well known anti-microbial food; it has antioxidant, anti-cancer properties. It is regularly implicated for cardiovascular health and improved immunity. Onions are also rich in allicin, red onions in anthocyanins, plus flavonols and quercetin in the yellow and brown skin. The combined chemicals in onions are reported to have anti-inflammatory properties and they are also known to lower risk of blood clotting.
Image Credit: Christopher Baker