Mother Nature has gifted us fruits and vegetables in different colours, not by chance but for our optimal health. This is why it is important to include all colours in our daily meals – and follow a “rainbow diet” to experience the abundance of medicinal benefits that fruits and veggies offer.
Studies have shown that it is best to get most nutrients from whole foods, as opposed to taking supplements. That is why, at Abundance, we promote eating organically grown fresh produce where possible and including a diverse amount of other whole foods to get your fill of nutrients and vitamins. We like to think of it as the Rainbow Diet.
Phytonutrients or phytochemicals are chemicals that occur naturally in plants to protect themselves from threats like bugs and pests. They also provide medicinal benefits to humans.
“In particular, plant pigment phytochemicals, carotenoids and flavonoids are the most extensively studied phytochemicals for their antioxidant functions, as well as potential preventive medicinal benefits such as maintaining inflammation balance, reducing the risk of certain cancers and promoting cardiovascular, neurocognitive, eye and bone health in humans,” according to the publication Biological Functions of Plant Pigment Phytochemicals in Humans.
What’s in the Rainbow Diet?
Red fruits and vegetables are coloured by a natural plant pigment called lycopene and ellagic acid. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight cancer and keep our heart healthy by reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Ellagic acid treats viral and bacterial infections, including the prevention of cancer.
Fruits and vegetables: Tomatoes, radishes, red peppers, red onions, beetroot, pomegranate, strawberries, grapes, grapefruit, cranberries, watermelon, red apples and rhubarb.
Orange and yellow
Carotenoids give the orange and yellow fruits and vegetables their effervescent colour. This nutrient includes beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body and assists in healthy vision as well as bone and cell growth.
Fruits and vegetables: Butternut, corn, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, orange and yellow peppers, oranges, lemons, mangoes, papaya, carrots, pineapple, peaches and nectarines.
Green fruits and vegetables are considered a powerhouse of nutrients and health benefits. Leafy green vegetables and green-skinned fruits are known to boost the immune system, help detoxify the body and restore energy and vitality. Found in these favourites are a long list of nutrients such as potassium, dietary fibre, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin C.
Fruits and vegetables: Celery, broccoli, kale, green beans, spinach, asparagus, peas, baby marrow, edamame, kiwi fruit, avocado, green grapes and green apples.
Blue and purple
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, which gifts them with their blue-purple colour. Also inherent in them is the resveratrol chemical (also found in red wine). Both these have been studied at length for their anti-cancer and anti-ageing properties.
The antioxidant character in anthocyanin has been observed for its benefit in helping to reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Fruits and vegetables: Aubergine/brinjals, red (purple) cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, figs, plums, red (purple) grapes and prunes.
White and brown
While not part of the rainbow makeup, white and brown fruits and vegetables have a series of phytonutrients known for their antiviral and antibacterial medicinal benefits, and some of the group members like bananas and potatoes provide the body with potassium. These fruits and vegetables also protect against certain cancers and are known as a heart-healthy choice.
Fruits and vegetables: Cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, garlic, potatoes, parsnips, brown pears, dates, white peaches and bananas.
The Rainbow Diet challenge
Incorporating a variety of coloured veggies and fruits into your daily diet can start as a personal challenge, if you’re not already practising the rainbow diet. Buy a fruit or veg you’ve never eaten or one you didn’t particularly like, find a tasty recipe and challenge yourself to cook it or add it to a dish.
Also, challenge yourself to eat multiple servings in a day. The recommended amount is between 5 and 13 fruits and veggies per day, and a serving is approximately 75g, depending on your overall health, gender, age or physical activity. Most importantly, consult your doctor or a registered dietician for a balanced rainbow diet. Experiment, have fun and enjoy!
Did you know?
Before conventional methods of dying fabrics were introduced, berries and teas were used to colour the finest hand-woven fabrics for royalty.
This article was written by Siyabonga Mngoma and published by Abundance Wholesome Foods.