Eat a Rainbow for Health
When I was training one of my lecturers had a favourite saying when it came to nutrition – “Eat a Rainbow!” – Now, she had a good point, because a diet rich in colour promises excellent health benefits. This obviously does not mean eating green lollies and blue jelly and downing orange Fanta though – don’t even get me started on food colourings and artificial additives! The Rainbow refers to choosing clean real foods which are all the colours of the rainbow. There is definitely a growing awareness that good nutrition and eating habits have a large impact on our health status. People are really embracing this right now, which is heartening to see.
Traditional cultures have an inherent respect for the energy and power of their food sources. I believe this respect then leads to being health aware. This is not so apparent in the Western World. Eating is how we nourish and nurture ourselves. It is one way our body takes in the nutrients it needs to create healthy cells and to fuel our bodily processes. The effects of being aware, in a good way, of how we nourish ourselves daily plays a huge part in our wellbeing – and I am not just talking about food here. How about rest, sleep, our response to stress, how we self care as adults?
I read a quote “Our food speaks a language through the Science of Nature” (Steve Gagne). And it is that and so much more. It is our fuel. Our nutrient base. The building blocks of our body. To not take responsibility for this is remiss – our hospitals are full of those who deliberately or through no fault of their own did not address their health issues soon enough, did not look at their food intake as a means of good nutrition.
Stephen Gagne also says that when we consume a farmer’s crop, the foods own experience is recorded, and that passes into our digestive system, onto the awareness of our nervous systems. I think he makes a good point! While our busy minds may not register that, every one of our cells “catches that music and dances to it” . And why not? I LOVE THAT! I would much rather eat food grown organically and safely, than crops grown beside the motorway, and I am guessing you would too! You might not see the difference between a freshly picked head of broccoli and a chemically sprayed one, picked 2 weeks ago, refrigerated and trucked but your body will know the difference . (Gagne, 2011).
Food contains carbohydrates, protein, essential vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants – all the essentials we need for good health, making healthy cells and carrying out the myriad of biological processes our bodies tackle each day.
Just as an aside - the food you eat has a big influence on the gut microbiome also. According to researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute different microorganisms prefer different food, so some species may grow or decline in numbers depending on what you choose to eat. These changes can happen rapidly – within days of incorporating new food in the diet. (Michels, 2015)
Here’s why it’s a good approach to get all your vitamins and minerals daily:
Look at your plate and build a rainbow of colour on it – this ensures you are getting the goodies you need! Plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, feature prominently in healthy diets. In addition to providing energy and essential micronutrients, plant-based foods contribute thousands of biologically active phytochemicals (plant chemicals that may affect health) to the human diet. (Pauling)
Red – think tomatoes, red apples, capsicums, cherries, grapes.
Improves heart and blood health and supports joints. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and phytonutrient that gives tomatoes their red coloring. Lycopene provides protection against heart disease. Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium and vitamin C, which supports heart health. Grapes are rich in antioxidants and fibre, and red grapes have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and reduce heart muscle damage. Blood triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol levels, blood vessel function may be improved with an intake of red!
Orange – think oranges, pumpkin, carrots, peppers, apricots
Rich in Vitamin C and carotenoids, (fat-soluble nutrients that produce the deep orange, yellow or red colors in fruits and vegetables) orange foods like pumpkins, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and orange bell peppers, have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast and skin. Carotenoid consumption also protects against the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Yellow – lemons, plantains, pineapple, star fruit, yellow winter and summer squash, squash blossoms, yellow peppers, corn, quince and bananas.
Everyone forgets about yellow, when the buzz-word is red, blue and purple! Yellow fruits and vegetables such as lemons, plantains, pineapple, star fruit, yellow squash, peppers, corn, quince and bananas are nutrient-packed with vitamin C and, carotenoids and bioflavonoids - water soluble plant pigments that function as antioxidants. These nutrients support heart function, vision, digestion and the immune system plus they are great for healthy skin, wound healing, and stronger bones and teeth. Pineapple contains bromelain and Papaya contains papain, which are great digestive enzymes with anti inflammatory properties.
Green – think grapes, cucumbers, kale and spinach, avocado, brussel sprouts, brocolli, avocado, beans, cucumbers, olives, sprouts, wheat grass, chlorella, barley grass, kelp, spirulina
Rich in phyto-nutrients green foods are full of vital anti-oxidants and plant-based vitamins and minerals which supports bodily functions, boost energy levels, and toxins such as heavy metals. Deep green leafy vegetables pack a powerful nutrient punch to heal and rejuvenate. Green foods also contain chlorophyll, the same green pigment found in plants. The oxygen we breathe comes from the chlorophyll in plants.
Blue/Purple – how about eggplant, plums, purple courgettes, kumara, Blackberries, blueberries, black grapes, beetroot, blackcurrants, purple plums, figs, prunes, raisins, red cabbage, aubergine
Everyone is aware of the benefits of blue and purple foods. Purple and blue pigment-related flavonoid phytonutrients contain anthocyanins which help with mInderal absorption and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and metabolic syndrome (the precursor for Type 2 Diabetes).
Anthocyanins that are typically found in purple, blue and dark red foods appear to help to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI’s) such as cystitis by stopping bacteria like E.coli from sticking to the urinary tract wall (think cranberries).
White – cucumber, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cauliflower
Don’t discount white food when it comes to a healthy diet. They might not be a colour of the rainbow, but the benefits of white foods like garlic include a lower risk of cancer and a reduction in blood pressure. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and gluten-free, with barely any sodium but still full of selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin D. Cauliflower, a member of the cruciferous family, along with broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts contains sulfur compounds that are associated with fighting cancer, strengthening bone tissue, and maintaining healthy blood vessels. Garlic supports the immune system by activating natural killer cells and is a potent antioxidant .
I would really encourage you to add a little colour to your diet today!