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 PURPLE and BLUE fruits and veg. So blueberries, blackcurrants, aubergines, red onions, red cabbage, radicchio, plums, figs, beetroot, red grapes and blackberries.
High amounts of anthocyanins and proanthocyanins are found in these fruits and veggies, these are potent antioxidants. Anthocyanin is the pigment that gives them their distinctive colouring, it also protects the plant from UV rays. These powerful antioxidant properties protect our cells from damage and can help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Anthocyanins are water soluble, so they are best eaten raw or lightly steamed to get the maximum benefit.
Beetroots are known to be high in nitrates which are converted naturally by the body to nitric oxide, a molecule which is known to relax and widen blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Not only is it important for the cardiovascular system, but it also reduces inflammation, increases strength and endurance, helps the immune system fight off bacteria, improves sleep, and with all that healthy increased blood flow, it’s also known as nature’s viagra …… need I say more?!
…. moving on …. Berries are a great source of ellagic acid, a phytochemical that’s known for its anti-cancer properties. Berries also tend to be lower in sugar than other fruits, so are a great choice if you need to add a bit of sweetness when trying to keep sugar intake to minimum.
Purple cauliflowers and purple cabbages also contain indoles which are derived from sulphur compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, and these help the body’s detoxification process. Indole-3-carbinol is converted to diindolylmethane (DIM) in the gut and is known to have a protective effect against oestrogen driven cancers.
In addition to this, these fruits and veggies also contain all the usual suspects you would expect to find, such as vitamins C and A, potassium, loads more phytonutrients and of course, dietary fibre.
This week try adding more colours to your plate and make your meals come alive. Ditch the beige and embrace the rainbow!