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.
This week it’s the turn of the GREEN fruits and veggies. Spinach, kale, spring greens, cabbage, chard, asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, avocados, green beans, rocket, watercress, courgettes, peas, celery, green pepper, cucumber, kiwis, green apples and grapes, so many to choose from. Green vegetables contain a whole range of phytonutrients and the healing and detoxing pigment chlorophyll is responsible for the deep green colours.
Carotenoids are mostly covered in the orange and yellow post, and although lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in abundance in those fruits and veg, I’ve saved them until now as the best sources are green leafy vegetables, such as spinach. In nature these carotenoids protect the plant from too much sunlight by absorbing the excess UV rays, and in our bodies it is believed that they block too much UV light reaching the retina, making them extremely important for good eye health and in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, or slowing down the progression of the disease, and also cataracts. They are highly antioxidant and important in guarding the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, the unstable molecules that destroy cells and play a role in many diseases.
Indoles, in particular indole-3-carbinol, are a phytonutrient particularly associated with cancer prevention, supporting detoxification and hormone balance. They are found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Folate is a B vitamin vital for our bodies to make DNA, produce new cells, and to support the immune and nervous systems. People are often confused between the difference of folate and folic acid, and there is a big difference. Folate is a naturally occurring substance found in natural foods, such as spinach and broccoli, whilst folic acid is a synthetic vitamin found in supplements and fortified foods. Our bodies need an enzyme to breakdown folic acid before the body can use it and unfortunately there are many reasons why some people can’t produce this enzyme, whereas folate is packaged up in a form that is easily metabolised and used by the body. A diet high in folate rich foods can help prevent cancer, heart disease, anaemia and birth defects.
Green leafy veg is also full of vitamins A, C and K and fibre, and they are also very alkalising, important to help buffer a very acidic, typical western diet.
This week try and aim to get your veggies into each meal, adding even more colour to make your plate come alive. Ditch the beige and embrace the rainbow!