Eating the Rainbow
by Rachel Jesson
in Blogs

After being very busy with consults recently, I have discovered we as humans often consume a monochromatic, habitual diet. In other words, we are eating much of the same foods day in and day out. I think this has a heap to do with all the different dieting options available to us and, once we have made our preferred selection, we end up in a rut of restrictions and constraints. The end result is some seriously bland-looking meals that are consumed more out of routine than deliciousness.

A rather sorry state of affairs really because by depriving ourselves of certain fruits and vegetables we are missing out on important, life-saving nutrients that one day we may be kicking ourselves over by saying if only we ate more beetroot!

Consuming a variety of colours of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis ensures that we are getting a number of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and more into our daily eating routine. Each colour has a unique set of phytochemicals, which gives them their colour and their powerful nutrients. Eating this way could protect you from a number of ailments and diseases such as flu, digestive issues, loss of bone density, weight issues and even cancer.

Visualise a white plate filled with cauliflower and a chicken breast. It sounds healthy because it is, but visually it’s dull in colour, lacks any form of vibrance or smell, and is certainly not going to get us salivating. We need to get excited about the foods we eat. We want and need our food to be visually appealing. It’s important that our food gives us olfactory satisfaction. By activating our senses and our salivary glands before we eat, we are jump-starting our digestive system to prepare for that food. The digestive enzymes start becoming active and the gastric acid prepares in our stomach for the digestion process. These are primary and instinctual processes that are required when we eat food. If we don’t see a gorgeous plate of colour with a fantastic smell radiating off it, we are not honouring our basic physiology when it comes to consuming foods. Think about the psychological benefits of seeing the rainbow in comparison to the dull white chicken dish. Your spirits and moods will lift as well with a colourful plate. So there is more than just nutrients involved when we eat a colourful plate.

So how do we get all these benefits? We push the colour spectrum so we eat more of what is good for us. Nature has colour-coded it all for us to make this process super simple. Here are the benefits of the colours we have available to us.

Red

Full of phytochemicals (lycopene) and anthocyanins which help with heart and circulatory health, improve memory, support urinary tract health and decrease the risk of certain types of cancers. For example, cherries: they are high in antioxidants, protect us against heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. They help reduce inflammation in the body and can help relieve the pain from gout or arthritis. And let’s not forget they are ridiculously delish!

Orange

These are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavanoids. They are linked to improved skin and eye health, improved immunity, increased heart health and may decrease the risk of certain types of cancers.

For example, carrots: they are high in vitamin A which helps maintain the integrity of the skin and beta-carotene which has been associated with boosting the immune system and potentially reducing the risk of skin cancer. The best way to consume these guys are pulling them straight from your back yard. Once of life’s rarest pleasures.

Yellow

Incorporating yellow promotes healthy digestion and optimal brain function. They are high in alpha and beta-carotene and have been linked to increased immunity and improved eye and skin health. For example, the mouth-watering vitamin C packed, juicy pineapple. The enzyme bromelain helps regulate and neutralise body fluids and aids in digestion.

Green

There are varying amounts of potent phytochemicals like lutein and indoles found in green vegetables. Some of their benefits include lowering the risk of certain types of cancers, improved eye health and rejuvenated musculature and bones, as well as promoting strong teeth. For example, vibrant broccoli is high in calcium and iron and is linked to strong teeth, bones and muscles.

Blue or Purple

They get their hue from anthocyanins which are linked to antioxidants and anti-aging properties in the body. The darker the foods the higher the antioxidants. They have been shown to lower the risks of some types of cancers, help promote bone health, improve memory and aid in urinary tract health. Their main benefit is increased circulation and microcirculation. For example, the vibrant eggplant is high in fibre, vitamin C, calcium and phosphorous which all promote strong bones and teeth.

White

Often the colour white is associated with the evil processed or refined foods that we want to avoid, however there are some naturally grown, real white foods that play a vital role in our health. They have been linked to lowering cholesterol, decreasing blood pressure and lowering the risk of heart disease. Their key benefit is increased immunity. By eating them, we enhance not only our immune and lymph systems but also aid in cellular recovery. For example, onions have powerful sulphur-bearing properties that work as anti-microbial agents (similar to garlic, also a white food). They have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve heart health by lowering the blood pressure and cholesterol. They are also high in quercetin which is linked to cellular protection and slowing down tumour growth rates.

Now you can see you have every reason to become an artist in the kitchen. Play with your colours. The best way to do this is unpack your fridge and veggie rack and include as much as you can into one dish. Sometimes you can look at a dish and see there is something not right with it and often it is colour. When you make your stir fries and soups, challenge yourself to use a minimum of six different coloured vegetables. The same applies to fresh salads, really include the rainbow in your bowl. It will be visually appealing and lift your moods because it just looks beautiful. Just adding simple colours will aid your body in the assimilation process.