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 ORANGE and YELLOW fruits and veggies, so sweet potatoes, squashes, carrots, sweet peppers, oranges and melons – all chock-full of carotenoids and abundant with Vitamins C and A. Carotenoids are the compounds that give these fruits and veggies their vibrant orange and yellow colours.
Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are pro-vitamin A carotenoids, which means they are converted in the body to vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant which is essential for healthy eyes and vision, for skin health, boosting immunity and maintaining healthy mucous membranes. There is also evidence that people who eat a diet rich in carotenoids can reduce their risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Carotenoids are fat soluble, so your body will absorb them better when you eat them with a healthy fat, such as olive oil or butter.
Naringenin and hesperidin are citrus flavonoids that can lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, have protective effects on cognition and improve circulation. They have been shown to help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and are also helpful for diabetics, especially in reducing diabetic neuropathy and retinal disease. Grapefruits, oranges, lemons and tangerines are great sources.
Limonene is a monoturpine, a natural compound found in the peel of citrus fruits. This has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is used to prevent and treat cancer, and also to promote weight loss.
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapples. It is often used in helping the body to digest, and therefore absorb nutrients more efficiently, and it is amazingly healing in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and is used to treat cancer, to reduce allergic reactions by helping to calm an over sensitive immune system, to treat sinus infections, and it is also anti-swelling so extremely helpful with injuries and joint pain.
Orange and yellow fruits and veggies are full of vitamin C, an important antioxidant for boosting the immune system, helping to promote collagen formation making it great for skin health, and it protects against cardiovascular disease. As vitamin C is water soluble the body can’t store it, so we need to make sure we are taking in plenty of it daily.
So this week see how you can build more colour into each meal. Ditch the beige and embrace the rainbow!