Eat a Rainbow: Add colors to your diet with fruits and veggies
Summers are here and it’s brought with it the most colorful festival of the lot – Holi. With Holi just around the corner, the air itself starts exuding fun, frolic and color. The shops already abound with the beautiful reds, greens, yellows and purples.
We are blessed with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.In the earlier days, Holi was played with colors extracted naturally via fresh fruits and vegetables. The various bright colors made the festival so attractive and fun. So, this in effect tells us that nature has provided us with a color scheme so beautiful and colorful to make the fresh produce alluring and attractive to us.
What gives the fruits and vegetables their color is a compound called as “Phytochemicals”. These phytochemicals work in sync with the vitamins, minerals, fibre and various other nutrients in plant foods to provide us with good nutrition and lower the risk of diseases. A colorful, balanced diet is associated with good health and prosperity.
All red colored fruits and vegetables have either lycopene or anthocyanins. Lycopene is a kind of carotenoid, like beta carotenoids,which is a powerful antioxidant. It is associated with reduced risk of cancers, especially prostate cancer and protection against heart diseases.
Anthocyanins also have a very strong antioxidant capacity. They play a role in cell communication, cancer and cardiac health and there is experimental evidence to suggest that they protect against tobacco smoke and ultra violet light exposure.
Apart from these, red colored foods are also rich in vitamins A, C, fibre and various other nutrients.
Foods: strawberries, tomatoes, red bell peppers, raspberries, pomegranates, watermelon, cranberries, apples, kidney beans, cherries, beets etc.
Orange and Yellow
Orange and yellowfoods are high in beta – cryptoxanthin, vitamin C and beta carotene. Beta cryptoxanthin, alpha and beta carotene are all precursors to vitamin A, which is a nutrient essential for not only vision and improved immunity but also for skin and bone health. Vitamin A is commonly known as the vision vitamin. Other phytochemicals present in orange and yellow foods protect our eyes from cataracts and also have anti-inflammatory properties apart from helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
Foods: apricots, cantaloupes, oranges, limes,carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches, papayas, mangoes, nectarines, squashes etc.
Green and Yellow Green
Green colored fruits and vegetables contains the pigment chlorophyll. They are rich in isothiocyanates which induce the enzymes in the liver to rid the body of cancer causing free radicals. Green vegetables are also excellent sources of fibre, Vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, omega 3 fatty acids etc. They help in clot formation, lowering blood pressure etc.
Yellow, green vegetables are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein is particularly beneficial for eye health. The green lining of pistachio nuts are high in lutein.
Foods: dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, kiwi, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, lettuce, green apples, pears, cucumbers, capsicum, green beans etc.
Blue or purple colored fruits and vegetables are rich in the phytochemical anthocyanin which gives them their color. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants and also help in the prevention of heart disease by preventing clot formation. The darker the hue of the food, the richer the fruit or vegetable is in the phytochemical.
Foods: grapes, cabbage, radish, blueberries, eggplant, plums, prunes.
Foods of the same color do not necessarily contain the same vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, so recommendations for a specific amount of any particular colored food is not possible. Having a plate filled with various colored fruits and vegetables at every meal ensures that a healthy balance of the various nutrients is eaten. Also, it is easier to count the number and variety of the colored food rather than counting the calories that are consumed.
Mother Nature has made it very easy for us to have a balanced and nutritious diet and lifestyle. It’s up to us make use of it wisely for maximum benefit.
Eat the rainbow of colors!!
Happy Holi !!
Ms. Nisha Singh
Nutritionist & Wellness Consultant
Nutritionist Nisha Singh is a gold medalist with over 10 years of independent experience of managing various ailments through lifestyle and dietary modifications, counselling of patients, diet and meal planning. She specializes in weight loss diets, pregnancy and post pregnancy diet plans, cardiac and lipid management, dealing with everyday diseases through dietary modification and health management of the athletes.
Image: Getty Images