We all know there’s nothing like a beautiful plate of colourful food when it comes to taking the ultimate Instagram picture. But did you know that eating the rainbow isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it’s fantastic for your health, too? Each fresh fruit and vegetable boasts its own unique combination of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, all of which contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. The best part is: when you have a deeper understanding of what each colour means in terms of the nutrition it provides, you can tailor your diet to best suit your needs!
Firstly, what are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, are the natural chemicals and compounds that plants produce to stay healthy and protected from external factors. There are over a thousand varieties of phytonutrients found in fresh fruit and vegetables that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight cancer-forming free radicals and an anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial for chronic disease prevention and long-term health.
So which colours should I eat and why?
RED ALERT! The Benefits of Eating Red:
From tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and red apples to radishes, red cabbage and watermelon, there’s no excuse for not eating red! These bright and beautiful fresh fruit and veg are high in antioxidants, Vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. They are known for protecting and healing our hearts! Each of these red choices have their own unique benefits and bring gut-healthy fibre, immune boosting vitamins and cancer-protection compounds!
Go Purple and Blue for Better Brain Health:
“The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”… And the greater the antioxidants! Darker fruits and vegetables, especially berries, are known to have the highest concentration of an antioxidant called flavonoids, which are loaded with health benefits for chronic disease prevention. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables also contain polyphenols that are great for brain function, memory and mood. So if you’re feeling blue… Eat blue (or purple!) fruits and vegetables like aubergine, purples grapes and blueberries!
Become a Machine by Eating Green:
Our green fruits and vegetables usually come in the form of leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, spinach and bok choy. They are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and despite being low in calories, provide calcium, vitamin A, K, C and E, as well as essential diseases-preventing antioxidants. Eating your greens will help you to maintain a healthy weight, improve your bone health and boost your immune function.
Broccoli, broccoli sprouts and other cruciferous veg contain sulforaphane, a powerful cancer-fighting compound. And here’s a top tip: add some mustard to cooked broccoli to increase your sulforaphane intake!
Eat Yellow and Orange For Skin, Bones and Eyes
It’s an old wives’ tale that carrots can help you see in the dark… Or is it? Maybe they won’t give you superhuman night-vision, but they certainly will strengthen your eyes due to their high levels of beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A. This is true for all yellow and orange fruits! And they won’t just help your eyes; vitamin A is great for your skin, hair and bones, too. These bright, summer-y fruits and vegetables like orange, mango, peaches, squash, sweet corn and lemon will also boost your immune system with natural Vitamin C.
Let’s Not Forget About White Fruits and Vegetables…
The category of white fruits and vegetables include the humble potato, mushrooms, cauliflower, bananas and pears, among others. Bananas contain potassium, an important mineral that regulates bodily functions and protects against stroke and osteoporosis. In general, white fruits and vegetables help control cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
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Unfortunately, when we say “colourful foods”, we’re not talking about cakes, sweets and candy with the vast array of artificial colourants! If you’re wanting reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and improved long-term health, fruits and vegetables are the way to go!
The best way to incorporate the many benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet is to experiment! Aim to have three to four different colours on your plate and see where that takes you. We also recommend eating seasonally for the best taste, nutrient quality and sustainability!