Beige may be a mainstay in many wardrobes because of its versatility, but when it relates to diet, simply beige is all the rage for all the wrong reasons. Indian’s affinity for all that is quick, cheap, and convenient is directing many to the cereal and cookie aisles, leading to a high-fat and highly processed “beige diet” that is nutrient impaired.
Fondness for foods lacking colour also reflects a metaphor of what else is lacking in processed foods:
A colourful, balanced diet is associated with good health and prosperity.
So what does colour have to do with diet anyway? One word: “phytochemicals”. These substances occur naturally only in plants and may provide health benefits beyond those that essential nutrients provide. Color, such as what makes a tomato so red, can indicate some of these substances, which are thought to work synergistically with vitamins, minerals, and fibre (all present in fruits and vegetables) in whole foods to promote good health and lower disease risk.
Phytochemicals may act as antioxidants, protect and regenerate essential nutrients, and/or work to deactivate cancer-causing substances. Including a rainbow of coloured foods in a diet plan ensures a variety of those nutrients and phytochemicals.
Plant foods are coded into seven colour categories: red, red/purple, orange, orange/yellow, yellow/green, green, and white/green.
Lycopene is the predominant pigment in reddish fruits and veggies. A carotenoid, lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with a reduced risk of some cancers, especially prostate cancer, and protection against heart attacks. Look for tomato-based products for the most concentrated source of this phytochemical. “Tomatoes help support the health of prostate and breast tissue.”
Cooking enhances the activity of lycopene.
In addition to vitamin C and folate, red fruits and vegetables are also sources of flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties.
Examples: Tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, cranberries
The blue/purple hues in foods are due primarily to their anthocyanin content. The darker the blue hue, the higher the phytochemical concentration. Many of the foods that are rich in anthocyanins also have a red or pink hue. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that are particularly heart healthy and may help support healthy blood pressure.
Examples: Brinjal, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, pomegranates
The natural plant pigment chlorophyll colours green fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in isothiocyanates, which induce enzymes in the liver that assist the body in removing potentially carcinogenic compounds. The phytochemicals indoles and isothiocyanates have anticancer properties. Green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, as well as carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. Folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy, and vitamin K is essential in blood clot formation. Diets high in potassium are associated with lowering blood pressure. In few studies, sulforaphane, a phytochemical present in cruciferous vegetables, was found to detoxify cancer-causing chemicals before they do damage to the body.
Examples: Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
A variation of the green colour category, these foods exhibit a richness in lutein. Lutein is particularly beneficial for eye health – helps protect against age-related macular degeneration. It’s high in vitamin C.
Examples: Avocado, kiwifruit, spinach and other leafy greens, pistachios
It represents beta-cryptoxanthin and vitamin C. Orange group foods are also rich in beta-carotene, which is particularly good antioxidants.”
Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene are all orange-friendly carotenoids and can be converted in the body to vitamin A, a nutrient integral for vision and immune function, as well as skin and bone health.
These foods are commonly considered the eyesight foods because they contain vitamin A. In addition, they may have high levels of vitamin C, and some contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Other phytochemicals typically found in yellow/orange fruits and vegetables protect our eyes from cataracts and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also help with blood sugar regulation.
Examples: Carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots
No colour? No problem
While some phytochemicals are pigments that give colour, others are colourless. The largest class of phytochemicals are the flavonoids, which for the most part are colourless. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, and these help the body to counteract free-radical formation. When free-radical damage goes unchecked, it can cause significant damage to body cells and tissues.
There are more than 4,000 different flavonoids, and they are classified into the following categories:
-myricetin (in berries, grapes, parsley, and spinach);
-quercetin (in onions, apples, broccoli, cranberries, and grapes);
-apigenin (in celery, lettuce, and parsley);
-luteolin (in beets, bell peppers, and Brussels sprouts);
-hesperetin and naringenin (both in citrus fruits and juices);
• flavan-3- ols:
-catechin (in tea, red wine, and dark chocolate);
-epicatechin, gallate, epigallocatechin, and epigallocatechin gallate (in teas, fruits, and legumes);
• anthocyanidins (in blue/purple and red fruits and vegetables)
What can you do?
Each colour provides various health benefits and no colour is superior to another, which is why a balance of all colours is of utmost importance. Planning ahead also challenges one’s self to take notice of colour when grocery shopping. If you have all red items for example in your grocery cart, head Bach and swap something out for another colour. Example: if you had watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, swap the strawberries for some oranges.
There appears to be more reason to eat the spectrum of colours than to wear them.
“Eat for a rainbow of benefits!!!”
#colourmehealthy #colouryourplatehealthy #raimbowonplate