Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. They fall into five different colour categories, red, orange/yellow, purple/blue, green and white/brown and each contain their own unique disease-busting chemicals called phytonutrients.
There is no one food that gives us everything we need, so to get the full spectrum of healthy nutrients we need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day and with every meal. The brighter and more deeply coloured fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of these phytonutrients, and as each different colour provides different benefits, by eating a variety throughout the day, we will pretty much have all our needs covered.
Each week I’ll cover a different colour category and this week it’s RED. So we’re talking tomatoes, red peppers, radishes, strawberries, pomegranates, rhubarb, cherries, pink grapefruits, red grapes, raspberries, redcurrants, watermelon and red apples.
Red fruit and vegetables are coloured by a carotonoid called Lycopene, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. It’s this phytonutrient that gives tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and red peppers their wonderful vibrant red colour. Lycopene helps to reduce the risk of cancer, particularly prostate, and is good for cardiovascular health and age-related macular degeneration. Top Tip: The body best absorbs lycopene when eaten with fat, so toss those cherry reds in some olive oil, a sprinkle off basil and imagine you’re on the riviera.
Resveratrol is from the stilbenoid group of phytonutrients, and is a compound found largely in the skins of red grapes. This wonder polyphenol is an antioxidant and is thought to neutralise free radicals and inhibit inflammation. It has anti-cancer properties, is beneficial for diabetics, good for heart health and is anti-ageing ……. So bring on the red wine (that’s a glass by the way, not a bucket!), well, we are on the riviera …
Capsaicin is the active compound of a chilli pepper, it’s what make it HOT! The hotter the chilli the more capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin fights inflammation, is a natural pain relief, has cardiovascular benefits, clears congestion, boosts immunity, can help stop prostate cancer cells from spreading, can prevent stomach ulcers (rather than cause them, as previously thought), lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and can help you lose weight – think of all the heat it generates, so you burn off more calories.
And this time of year we have the beautifully bejewelled pomegranate with it’s deep, ruby red seeds, a superfood in its own right. It contains a type of polyphenol called a punicalagin, which is easily absorbed by the body. It’s super anti-inflammatory and a concentrated source of antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals.
So this week, see how you can add more colour into your diet at every meal. Ditch the beige and embrace the rainbow!