Eat the Rainbow!
The compounds that make vegetables colourful and vibrant, not only make them look amazing, but they also provide us with a number of health benefits. These beautiful colours in fruit and vegetables come from compounds called phytonutrients. These phytonutrients are natural chemicals present in plants which protect them from bugs and insects.
When consumed in the food we eat, phytonutrients provide protection against some diseases and allow your body to function at its best. The different colours in vegetables come from different phytonutrients.
Each of these phytonutrients have different properties and thus different health benefits.
This is why we should be aiming to consume a variety of different coloured vegetables each day. Not only does a rainbow salad bowl look aesthetically pleasing, but it also allows you to obtain a diverse range of health benefits too!
What are the benefits of each colour?
The phytonutrients found in orange and yellow vegetables are known as carotenoids. Some of these carotenoids can be converted to vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system and good eye health. Plus, carotenoids also have antioxidant properties, helping to reduce disease risk. Some of our favourite orange/yellow vegetables include pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato.
The phytonutrients found in purple and blue vegetables include resveratrol, anthocyanidins and flavonoids. These phytonutrients play an important role in the function of our heart, brain and bone health. Some of our favourite blue/purple vegetables include red onion and eggplant.
The phytonutrients found in green vegetables include lutein, isoflavones and isothiocyanates. These phytonutrients are beneficial for our eye health, heart, lung and liver function. Plus, like other phytonutrients, they are also beneficial for cell health and reducing DNA damage. Some of our favourite green vegetables include spinach, broccolini, zucchini, kale and cucumber.
You may have been told that white isn’t a colour, well this certainly isn’t the case when it comes to phytonutrients. Even white vegetables contain phytonutrients which have beneficial effects on our health. The phytonutrients found in white vegetables include allicin, quercetin and indoles. These phytonutrients support healthy bones, cardiovascular health and also help to reduce cancer risk. Some of our favourite white vegetables include garlic, onion, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Challenge yourself to increase the number of colours in your meals over the next week. Take a look at your meal and see if you can include one vegetable from each of the above 4 colours. If this seems a bit tricky, try starting with 2 different colours of vegetables on your plate each night, and then work your way up to include all 4!