We hear quite often on social media and in the press to ‘eat a rainbow’ and this is something I incorporate in my own client plans, but what does it actually mean and crucially what are the reasons for this!
Nutritionists will say to eat a rainbow because each coloured fruit and vegetable provides specific health benefits unique to that plant. In order to benefit from a full array of nutrients, we need to ensure a diverse range of colours in our diet. There are some nutrients in highest density in a specific colour of fruit and veg such as purple foods like berries contain high levels of polyphenols and red peppers contain superior levels of the antioxidant quercetin. This is why getting a good balance of all colours is really important. Colourful fruits and vegetables not only look good on the plate and make it look appetising but due to the amount of phytonutrients it paints a picture of health, one that can help you live a longer, healthier and happier life. Therefore the brighter the plate with a good variety of fruit and vegetables the better.
Phytonutrients play an important role in the plants life. They strengthen the plant’s immune system, and protect them from threats such as disease and excessive sun. It therefore makes perfect sense that these phytonutrients play a similar role when we consume them. Phytonutrients have anti-cancer and anti-heart disease properties. Research suggests that food patterns that include a diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and may protect against certain types of cancer. By ‘Eating a Rainbow’ you are providing your body with the essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and crucially the fibre it needs to sustain a healthy gut and function optimally. Eating this way reduces the risk of many chronic disease such as cancer and helps to support immunity, digestion, vision, bone density, and weight management. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, pulses, seeds and legumes that have different types of fibre in them also supports the millions of microbes that colonise our gut. These healthy bacteria rely on fibre as an energy source so ‘eating a rainbow’ will help support gut health and microbial diversity.
Red Red fruits and vegetables are nature's powerhouse. Containing phytochemicals – including lycopene and ellagic acid – red foods have cancer-fighting benefits, and could reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Orange and Yellow Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are packed full of nutrients. They are rich in Vitamin C and carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which promotes healthy vision and cell growth. Citrus fruits contain hesperidin that increases blood flow for the cardiovascular system and supports the liver & kidneys.
Green coloured fruits and vegetables are some of the most potent foods you can eat. Rich in lutein, isothiocyanates, isoflavones, vitamins B12 & K, folate and Iron which is essential for blood and bone health. Leafy green vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and folates essential for pregnancy and liver function. Greens like Kale are super high in calcium as and cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli are anti-cancerous and immune enhancing.
Blue and Purple
Blue and purple foods contain anthocyanin and polyphenols; powerful antioxidants that may help protect cells from damage and could reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Beetroot, radishes, and purple cabbage contain powerful gut and liver supportive nutrients, they help cleanse the blood and have been shown to help lower blood pressure naturally. Fruits – the darker, the better – contain phytochemicals that are known to repair damage from stress and inflammation including free radicals.
White and Brown
While these foods are not as bright as the other colours, they still contain potent nutrients. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable rich in a healthy compound called sulforaphane. Garlic and onions are in the allium family of vegetables and contain the powerful compounds allicin and quercetin that help to reduce the risks of cancer and have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties.
One final point and importantly, your mood will be lifted when your plate is full of a variety of visually appealing bright colours since these vast array of nutrients even influence our neurotransmitters! Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine play a critical role in our mental wellbeing and are created in our gut and are heavily influenced by the quality of fibre and nutrients we consume. These nutrients support gut health linked to neurotransmitter production and the vitamins from these foods we plays a vital role in nourishing our nervous system and regulating our stress responses.
If you would like more information on how to support your body in an individualised way then just drop me a line. One of my DNA testing packages would also give you specific information relating to your own body’s capacity for absorbing and utilising certain nutrients and which types of foods you are particularly lacking or needing more of from your DNA profile.