We’ve all heard of having our 5 a day, but something we don’t hear as much is the idea of eating the rainbow. I am obsessed with having as many colours as I can on my plate and nothing upsets me more than a beige meal. I know however that my passion for colour isn’t as widely shared as I wish it could be. Therefore, my mission today is to explain why it is so important to “eat the rainbow”, breaking down each colour of food available and explaining some of the benefits of including these in our diets. Hopefully after this you will be inspired to have a fridge that is packed full and bursting with colour!
For each colour I have highlighted the main properties they include, however it is important to say that most of our fruit and veg has a multitude of different vitamins and minerals available in varying degrees so this blog is by no means exhaustive. I have also added some simple ideas of ways to include more of the colours in your diet.
Instantly when you think of red foods things like strawberries, tomatoes and berries spring to mind. These foods contain different antioxidants such as lycopene in tomatoes and anthocyanins in berries.
Lycopene gives these foods their red colour and this antioxidant can help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and help to protect against cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease for those unsure is a general term that is used for conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels.
There are many ways we can increase the number of red foods in our diet for example adding berries to your morning porridge, tomatoes to salads, making homemade tomato sauce for pastas or adding red peppers to a chilli or stir fry.
Orange foods contain carotenoids which are the pigment that gives them their colour. These include alpha and beta carotene.
Beta carotene provides the colour to orange and yellow foods. When we consume beta carotene it is converted to Vitamin A which has multiple health benefits, the most commonly known benefit is its support in eyesight and function.
Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are also high in vitamin C which can help support our immune system and keep us fit and healthy.
Ways to include your orange food intake include swapping potato for sweet potato, roasting pumpkin or salads of blending in soups, grating carrots into salads of adding to sauces or boiling carrots with swede for a super healthy addition to your roast dinner plate!
Not a colour that instantly springs to mind but nonetheless can add a lot of value to our diets. Foods include yellow peppers, swede, lemons and sweetcorn.
Some yellow foods also contain beta carotene but are also rich in another antioxidant known as beta cryptoxanthin. This is also converted into Vitamin A, supporting healthy vision, skin and body’s defences.
Some delicious diet additions could include stuffed yellow peppers, sweetcorn fritters or even simply adding a fresh lemon tea to our morning routine.
Green is my favourite colour! Some of my favourite foods such as broccoli, kale, avocadoes, courgettes, cucumbers and apples all sit in this category.
Green vegetables are packed full of many different vitamins and minerals. They contain chlorophyll which is the main pigment found in green foods and due to its antioxidant properties can support our health, boost our energy and help with fighting illness.
I always try to have a least one bit of green on my plate, especially my lunches and dinners. A few examples of things to try include avocado on toast, adding side salads to your lunches, making homemade kale crisps or ensuring you have one green veg with every dinner.
Purple isn’t always a colour we see often on people’s plates. This can include foods such as aubergine, beetroot, red cabbage, blackberries and purple grapes. There is so much to be gained from adding purple to our diets. Anthocyanins are the pigment that gives the purple colour and these are a powerful antioxidant which again can support with reducing inflammation and fighting against free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells in the body.
Beetroot is also commonly known to be a food which is rich in nitrates, which can help to reduce blood pressure. Nitrates however can be found in many other foods such as spinach, green leafy vegetables and carrots.
Recipe ideas could include braised red cabbage for roast dinners, aubergine pasta bake, blackberry granola for breakfast and a beetroot hummus to spread over some toast or use as a dip for crudites.
White isn’t necessary a colour we would consider when we think of the rainbow but actually these foods such as bananas, potatoes, mushrooms and onions boast many health benefits. Anthoxanthins are the pigments found in these foods and studies have found that they may have some link to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Potatoes are also a great source or vitamin C which can help with immune function and repair and Potassium which can help to lower blood pressure and promote a normal heart and muscle function. Bananas and mushrooms also boast a higher potassium rate.
Again, multiple ways you can include these foods in the diet including skin on potato wedges (keeping the skin can increase our fibre intake), adding bananas to smoothies or juices, including white onions in our sauces/dishes and adding mushrooms to things such as omelettes or pastas.
And there you have it! All the reasons to “eat the rainbow”. With all of this the key is to remember:
- Variety is the spice of life. Try not to overthink your meal choices but simply take a look at your plate and ensure each one has a splash of different colour on it!
- Try new things. It is always good to keep trying new foods and adding’s things into your diet you perhaps wouldn’t have thought of before. Be adventurous
- Savvy ways to upgrade your meals. It is easier than you think to add more colour to your diet but by trying some of the examples included above or having a little recipe research you will find new and ingenious ways to increase your rainbow intake!
Eat well, Live well, Be Happy!
Lots of Love