This week, registered nutritionist Sarah Moore breaks down why we need to eat foods in every colour of the rainbow. Not only will your plate look pretty, but your body will thank you too.
We all know that we need to eat our veggies. They’re high in fibre and provide us with essential vitamins and minerals to help us meet our daily needs. But did you know that eating a wide variety of foods is as important as consuming enough?
‘Eat the rainbow’ isn’t just a trick to help kids eat more vegetables (we do eat with our eyes, after all), it’s a strategy we can all adopt to make sure we’re getting the variety of nutrients we need to stay healthy and ward off disease. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, special chemical compounds that give plants their rich colours, distinctive tastes. As each fruit and vegetable has different benefits, eating the rainbow is the best way to ensure you’re getting the range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that you need to stay healthy. Colourful meals and snacks are also more appealing, helping us to eat more of the plant foods we need.
Include as many plant-based colours in your meals and snacks as possible. Each colour provides various health benefits, and no one colour is superior to another – which is why a balance of all colours is most important. Take a look at your shopping trolley and make sure you’ve got a rainbow of fresh produce in there before you head to the checkout.
Getting the most phytonutrients also means eating the colourful skins, the richest sources of the phytonutrients, along with the paler flesh. Try to avoid peeling foods with edible flesh like potatoes, apples, pears, peaches, cucumber and eggplant, to keep their most concentrated source of beneficial chemicals.
Eat the Rainbow
Red: Foods like strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, red apples, beetroot, watermelon, red grapes, red capsicum and red onions.
These foods are rich in lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to protect against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease.
Orange and yellow: Foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow capsicum, citrus, peaches, bananas, pineapple, mango, corn and pumpkin.
These foods are rich in beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.
Green: Foods like herbs, spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, pears and kiwi fruit.
These foods are rich in cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds).
Blue and purple: Foods like blueberries, blackberries, black grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes and purple cabbage.
These foods are rich in powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular ageing and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots.
White and brown: Foods like onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish and mushrooms.
The onion family contains allicin, which has anti-tumour properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol, which are anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting.
So next time you stir-fry some greens, add in some purples (cabbage and red onion), reds (capsicum) yellows (corn) and whites (mushrooms) and eat the rainbow instead.
Registered Nutritionist (BSc, MPH)