"An apple a day keeps the doctor away". I speak many languages, and this saying is used in all of them. According to Wikipedia, this Welsh proverb was first recorded in the 1860s, and since then it found its way into English, Greek, French, German, Italian, and more! Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against apples. It’s a wonderful fruit with many nutritional benefits. What I don’t like is that this fruit is somehow tagged as the one most likely to prevent a visit to the doctor. All fruits and vegetables have that power. This is what this blog post is all about: variety.
It’s easy to fall into the routine of always buying the same thing at the supermarket. You know you (and your family) like the taste, you know a recipe that is easy to follow, it’s what you are used to eating. First of all, let me congratulate you on actually consuming fruits and vegetables; many people don’t. And obviously, eating any fruits and vegetables is better than eating none. But the truth is, you would be getting many more health benefits if you varied the fruits and vegetables you eat.
You see, each colour in fruits and vegetables is caused by specific phytonutrients: natural chemicals that help protect plants from germs, bugs, and other threats. And each colour indicates an abundance of specific nutrients. In addition, your plate is visually much more appealing when it has bright versus dull colour combinations. Therefore: get creative, have fun and eat the rainbow!
Here is a snapshot of the phytonutrients found in each colour, including fruits and vegetables that you’ve probably already had and some less common ones to try out:
- RED: Phytonutrients such as lycopene, known to help in preventing cancer and heart disease.
You’ve probably had: tomatoes, apples, strawberries
Try this! Bell peppers, watermelon, raspberries, roiboos tea
- ORANGE: Phytonutrients such as vitamin C and carotenoids (vitamin A), which promote healthy vision and protect your skin.
You’ve probably had: carrots, oranges
Try this! Sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, turmeric root, pumpkin
- YELLOW: Phytonutrients such as lutein and rutin, with benefits for the heart, your eyes and your skin.
You’ve probably had: bananas, lemon, apple
Try this! Corn, ginger root, pineapple, pears
- GREEN: Phytonutrients such as catechins, phenols and folates, helping keep your liver healthy and promoting hormonal balance.
You’ve probably had: lettuce, cucumber, avocado
Try this! Brussels sprouts, watercress, green tea, okra, artichoke
- BLUE AND PURPLE: Phytonutrients such as anthocynanidins, procyanidins, promoting cell protection and cognitive health.
You’ve probably had: cabbage, black olives
Try this! Blueberries, black rice, plums, eggplants
- WHITE AND BROWN: Phytonutrients such as allicins, lignins, with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as compounds that can assist with liver and hormonal health.
You’ve probably had: onions, garlic, rice
Try this! Sunflower seeds, coconut, mushrooms, cauliflower
I support my clients in finding ways (including yummy recipes!) to include at least a serving a day of each of these colours and to help them eat the rainbow.
It's a relatively easy and fun way to improve your health. Try it. Next time, fill your supermarket trolley with colour. Be curious. Try something new. Your body and your eyes will thank you!
Phytonutrient spectrum comprehensive guide, 2015, The Institute for Functional Medicine
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