One of the main ways to ensure that you and your family get a good balance of valuable nutrients is by “eating the rainbow!” Scientists have proven that by eating brightly coloured, fresh fruit and vegetables you can protect against certain cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, cataracts, arthritis and even premature ageing!
It is the natural chemicals “phytochemicals” that are responsible for providing these bright colours. They act as powerful antioxidants, ‘mopping up’ potentially harmful free radicals before they can do damage to our cells.
Red fruit and vegetables contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin to name a few. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant more easily absorbed when food has been heated so warm tomatoes are better than raw! Lycopene helps to neutralize free radicals implicated in cancer, heart disease and many other age related illnesses. Quercitin reduces the risk of sun damage to the skin.
Choose from tomatoes, red peppers, raspberries, strawberries, water melon, cranberries, apples, pomegranates, guava and many more.
Orange and Yellow fruit and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamin C, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium and carotenoids such as beta-carotene. These nutrients also reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure and help to build healthy bones. Beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A – good for vision in dim light and maintaining cells that line the urinary and digestive tracts.
Choose from bananas, pineapple, yellow pepper, carrots, orange peppers, sweet potatoes, peaches, oranges, mangoes, sweetcorn, butternut squash and pumpkin.
Green fruit and vegetables are full of powerful antioxidants and contain a rich source of vitamin C, K, E, and B, as well as iron, calcium and fibre. The health benefits are huge – particularly of dark green leafy vegetables.
Greens also contain beta carotene, folate, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Beta carotene strenghtens the immune system, while lutein and zeaxanthin prevent degenerative eye diseases like macular degeneration. The nutrients found in green vegetables are great for our skin, nails and hair and reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
Vitamin K is best known for its role in helping blood clot, or coagulate, properly. Your body also needs vitamin K to use calcium to build bone and help prevent osteoporosis. Whereas pregnant women need to eat a diet rich in folate to lower the chances of having a baby with neural tube defects.
Choose from brocoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, courgettes, cucumber, lettuce, apples, kiwi fruit, pears, watercress, leeks, grapes, spring onions, peas, beans, avacado and asparagus.
Purple and blue fruit and vegetables get their colour from photochemicals called anthocyanins and contain nutrients which include lutein, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. Similar to the previous colour groups, these nutrients improve eyesight, lower LDL cholesterol, support healthy digestion, improve calcium and other mineral absorption, boost immunity and fight inflammation. Ellagic acid may help to protect against cancer and anthocyanins may help reduce risk of strokes and heart disease.
Choose from blackberries, blueberries, grapes, aubergines, plums, beetroot, red onion, prunes, raisins/currants and blackcurrants.
So why not challenge yourself to eat at least one piece of fruit or vegetable from each of the above colour groups each day? Your body will thank you for it! Good luck!