Eat the Rainbow
by Victoria Clifton, Hull-based dietitian
Most people will have heard the message to eat ‘Five-a-day’ however an equally important message is to ‘Eat the Rainbow’, and I don’t mean Skittles! Of course, your first goal is to include 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day into your diet, but once you have mastered that, it is worthwhile thinking about which colours you are eating. This is important because plant foods all have different natural compounds in them, and the colour of the plant gives us a clue to which compound it has. Therefore by eating a range of colours, you will eat a range of these compounds, which is fantastic for your health.
The reason these compounds are so good for us is because they mop up harmful substances in our body. This means if you eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables, you will lower the risk of developing diseases such as stroke and high blood pressure. A word of warning here…don’t part with your hard-earned cash for ‘superfoods’ or foods labelled as high in ‘antioxidants’…antioxidants are just the normal compounds found in all food and veg you can find at your local greengrocer. Here are the five main colours found in fruit and veg:
For example, tomatoes contain a compound called lycopene which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
Compounds called carotenoids keep our eyes healthy and are used to make hormones in our body. These compounds are found in carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers and peaches.
Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and kale all contain a special compound which may prevent against certain cancers. More research needs to be done to be certain, but it looks promising!
The compounds in these plant foods are called anthocyanins, which have been shown to protect cells from damage. These can be found in aubergine and red cabbage.
A compound found in garlic, onions and cauliflower has been shown in studies to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, our humble potato contains a lot of potassium which is vital for good health.
As you can see, there are many potential benefits to including a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet. However this isn’t where the story ends. These special compounds make their way to our colon, where our friendly bacteria transform them into chemicals which have been shown to prevent cancer, improve heart health and improve mental health. But as I mentioned earlier, a lot more research needs to be done for us to be clear on how exactly they improve our health.
What we do know is that eating a variety of plant foods, especially vegetables, is amazing for our health in many ways. And remember…Eat the Rainbow!
January 2020 Blog Part 1 - Milena Part 2 - Holly Part 3 - Victoria Part 4 - Milena Part 5 - Holly