How to eat a RAINBOW - and the importance of a colourful diet
Do you believe that food can be medicine? I have studied the healing elements in certain foods and the value of a healthy diet for immunity building and disease prevention. My conclusion is a categorical yes!
Cooking for me is a relaxing, creative outlet. This helps enormously in taking the ‘chore’ out of daily meal preps and following a healthy diet, as a lifestyle and not limited to times when your health is in crisis. Creating meals containing the colours of the rainbow does not require any culinary training at all and is easy for everyone to do.
If food is your medicine, let your kitchen and your garden be your pharmacy, is what I say!
Eat your fruits and vegetables
Is the key to health as obvious as what our mothers and grandmothers always told us: to eat our fruits and vegetables! Or is it about avoiding unwholesome processed foods, alcohol and sugar to name but a few well-known culprits … or perhaps a bit of both?
These messages may sound way too simple to be deeply impactful. But these are strange times indeed… a time of forced rest, slowing down and staying at home. Should you be searching for answers to the how-to-build-resilience-and-stay- healthy puzzle, this could be just the time and space you need to get invaluable feedback.
Ancient wisdom vs Modern science
The idea of listening to ancient wisdom and going back to nature has always appealed to me. And when modern science can provide me with substantial explanations, I am completely converted. So, is there any science to support why we should follow the advice of our wise forebearers and eat our fruits and vegetables?
Eating a rainbow
Yes, there is and plenty of it! Eating especially a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables is important for building a strong immune system and other numerous health benefits. In nature and commercial farming, all plant foods have a signature colour. Strawberries are red, oranges are orange, broccoli is green, blueberries are blue, garlic is white, tea is green, turmeric is yellow and pepper is black.
The colours in food relate to families of plant pigments. Furthermore, colour is indicative of nutrient content and heralds the presence of different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. For that reason, creating and consuming meals that use nature’s full palette of phytonutrients, is more than a feast for the eyes. A diet that incorporates a rainbow of fruit and vegetable ingredients can have many positive health and vitality outcomes.
Antioxidants help the immune system repair and mop up after infections and the toxic insults of modern living. They support our cells in reducing everyday ‘wear and tear’ which is called oxidation. Among other important functions, antioxidants can also remove the cellular 'rust' that builds up, switch off inflammation, slow the natural ageing process and repair damaged DNA.
Research has isolated and named active compounds responsible for the different pigments and antioxidant effects. For example, blueberries contain the rare blue- purple anthocyanins, red tomatoes lycopene, beta carotene is in orange carrots, yellow zeaxanthin is in corn and curcumin is in turmeric root, brown tannins are in tea. Chlorophyll which is a ubiquitous life-giving green pigment is present in spinach and all green plants and algae such as chlorella and spirulina.
‘The Beige diet’
Many people eat a mostly beige diet and don't include enough colour in their daily food repertoire. Beige includes the spectrum from white to brown. Beige foods such as potatoes, dairy and grains undoubtedly have nutritional value. But when these beige foods form the greatest proportion of our daily meals and snacks, health problems can arise.
Given how affordable processed beige foods are in our modern world, their abundance, ease of access to them and addictive tastes, it is not surprising how much of them most people crave and consume.
I love the approach that uses colour as a guide to healthy eating. This is a simple but scientifically validated way to ensure that you are consuming a full spectrum of plant-derived nutrients in your diet and an inspiring solution to lifestyle disease relating to ‘the beige diet’.
Food vs Supplementation
Most people agree with the logic that we should try to get all our nutritional needs from the food we eat. The reality is often challenging and there may be a place for supplementation. Can and do they fill these nutrient gaps and deliver improved health and wellbeing?
Supplements take the form of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fats, herbs and other plant extracts or a combination of the above ingredients. They may help you to optimise your health by filling in the nutritional gaps left by a beige diet.
A food supplement is something to take in addition to your best healthy diet. It is not a replacement for good clean food. We know this because colourful plant foods provide a synergy of nutrients that supplements do not.
Pigments of imagination?
It doesn’t matter whether you are a vegan, paleo or have no specific dietary preference. Just by using all nature’s tints and tones and increasing the number of colourful fruits and vegetables in your meals, it can help you to build a smart immune system and also long term resilience.
Don’t take it from me (or the scientists), go on and try it! Discover if the health benefits of eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day are more than a pigment of your grandmother’s imagination…
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A version of this article also appeared in the following online publication
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