Ever heard of eating a rainbow?
It’s a term commonly used by dietitians, nutritionists and the healthy-minded to describe the range and colours of fruit and veg you should be eating. We’re constantly told to eat a healthy and varied diet and to ensure we eat a full spectrum of food groups and types.
But, what does this all really mean? And, what exactly is the point?
Rainbows Are Really All About Phytochemicals
The word ‘phytochemicals’ comes from the Greek word ‘phyto’, which means ‘plant’. So, phytochemicals are compounds or chemicals found in plants. They’re biologically active and are core part of why fruit and vegetables are so good for us (they’re also responsible for all their bright colours!).
By eating a range, or a rainbow, of vegetables every day you expose your body to a comprehensive number and variety of phytochemicals that provide significant health benefits.
The Colours, The Foods And The Benefits
Chockablock full of vitamin C, carotenoids and flavonoids, anything that has grown out of the ground flashing this colour is ridiculously good for you. Vitamin C is responsible for keeping your skin healthy, boosting your immune system and assists with the healing of wounds. And as if that’s not enough – the red colour comes from a natural plant pigment called lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that boosts heart health and reduces the risk of some cancers! Put your hand out for strawberries, watermelon, rhubarb, tomatoes, cranberries, capsicum and chillies to get your glow on and stave off sick days!
Also a rich source of vitamin C, flavonoids and carotenoids, orange fruit and veg such as oranges, pumpkin, carrots and sweet potato can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain a chemical called terpenes, which as well as being effective cancer preventatives, also give plants their unique scents – and have therapeutic effects which can help de-stress your body and improve concentration!
Again, yellow fruit and veg are rich in vitamin C, carotenoids, terpenes and flavonoids. However, they are high in one carotenoid in particular, called lupin, which is their main attraction! Lupin is stored in your eye, and by keeping your levels up you reduce your risk of developing eye disease as you age. Snack up on some yellow capsicum, corn, lemon, mangoes, squash and yellow chillies to keep your eyes 20/20.
Spinach, avocado, brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, zucchini, beans and peas are perfect choices for anyone looking to rainbow-ify their diet. Incredibly nutrient dense, green fruit and veg contains high levels of indoles, saponins, folic acid, vitamin K, iron and calcium, as well as carotenoids, flavonoids, terpenes and vitamin C. Iron and folic acid are your number one friend when it comes to making healthy red blood cells, and helping oxygen travel around your body. Saponins assist with lowering cholesterol, boosting your immune system and reducing your risk of heart disease, and indoles have cancer prevention properties. Um, did someone say ‘more please’!
Blue, Purple + Black
These bad boys are rich in anthocyanins as well as vitamin C and are best friends for your body tissues. Harnessing anti-inflammatory properties and helping your body fight free radicals, blue purple and black fruit and veg help keep your tissues in tip-top shape – and your risk of developing cancer and heart disease down. Anthocyanins belong to a powerful group of antioxidants, and as well as keeping you healthy of the inside, can keep you looking good on the outside too by preventing premature ageing! Stock up on blueberries, purple kale, plums, eggplant and black olives to reap the benefits!
Brown + White
Old favourites like cauliflower, banana, dates, parsnips, mushrooms, onion, ginger and potatoes are uber nutrient rich (and delicious too!). Full of protein and stocked in essential B group vitamins, carbohydrates, indoles and isothiocyanates, these guys pack a serious punch. B vitamins are great for boosting your energy levels, isothiocyanates combat carcinogens, and of course carbohydrates are the number one fuel source for your body!