Red, green and yellow are not just colours of the rainbow, but nature’s way of adding nutrition to your diet. The diet enriched with these colours is an important source of phytonutrients, which means all the natural compounds found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and legumes.
The word ‘phytonutrients’ comes from ‘phyto’, meaning plant. Thus, the importance of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of various hues has often been advised by experts and professionals. And to ‘eat the rainbow’ can actually benefit health and have potent anti-cancer and anti-heart disease properties.
Consuming colourful foods gives more nutrition and phytonutrients to the body, says Vijayashree, chief dietician, MGM Healthcare, Chennai.
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“This isn’t just preparing a beautiful plate; each colour signifies different nutrients our body needs. The natural foods we consume are red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, green and brown in colour. Including these colourful foods in the diet can improve vision, decrease inflammation, reduce the risk of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes and also can strengthen our immune system. These health benefits are due to the phytochemicals that occur naturally within these foods,” she says.
In a recently held ASSOCHAM webinar on fibre consumption for good gut health bacteria, health experts suggest how nutrition has a significant impact on all bodily functions and health.
Dr Sudeep Khanna, senior consultant in gastroenterology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, says, “Foods which are inflammatory should be avoided since they turn good bacteria in the gut into bad bacteria. Instead, fibre-rich diets, which support the development of good bacteria, are good. Changes to lifestyle and eating habits are necessary to lower dietary risks. So, pick a rainbow-coloured diet; the more colours on our plate, the healthier it is. A few strategies to maintain health and fitness include eating on small plates to prevent overeating, eating less and walking around more, and having dinner before 7 pm,” he advises.
Dr Rajesh Kesari, the founder and director of Total Care Control in Delhi-NCR and a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI Executive Committee), says a focus on food items that can be beneficial, like green vegetables, fruits, beans, berries, helps avoid avoid diseases like colon cancer.
For a balanced diet
Phytonutrients are plant based compounds or chemicals which are known to have anti mutagenic, i.e, anti-cancer, free radical scavenging, i.e, antioxidant and immunity boosting functions which help promote health and prevent diseases.
According to Ruchika Jain, chief dietitian, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, they are generally coloured pigments imparting vibrant colours to fruits and vegetables.
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“Even WHO recommends eating five portions (400 gm) of fruits and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. Eating a rainbow coloured diet that includes varied colours of fruits and veggies will provide a variety of important phytonutrients. A well-balanced healthy plate comprising 50% of fruits and vegetables, the rest being a variety of whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes,” says Jain.
Jain shares a list of various phytonutrients and a few important ones are: betacarotene, lutein, anthocyanins, lycopenes, isoflavones, indoles, catechins, resveratrol, etc.
For instance, lycopene is found in tomatoes and its products are found to be cardio-protective and anti-cancer, especially prostate cancer.
Lutein is found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli and is found to be good for eye health, anti-cancer and heart health.
Beta carotene found in orange and yellow orange coloured fruits and vegetables like pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, peaches and mangoes are powerful antioxidants and help maintain good vision, immune function, and skin and bone health.
Anthocyanins found in blueberries, black berries, plums, cranberries, purple grapes, strawberries, raspberries are found to be anti-cancer, cardio-protective and helpful in age-related degenerative diseases also.
Resveratrol, found mainly in grapes, red wine and peanuts, is found to be good for heart and lung health and has anti-inflammatory properties too.
Isoflavones found in soybean are found to be especially beneficial for menopause, breast cancer, endometrial cancer bone and joint health.
Curcumin found mainly in turmeric is found to have excellent anti-inflammatory properties and is widely used in medicines; research is still on for its anti-cancer effects.
Nature has created different varieties of foods with beautiful colours but each of these colours occurring naturally in food has excellent potential to heal a disease.
Shikha Gupta, hormonal expert nutritionist, and a health coach, calls this a ‘colour therapy’ or healing with colourful fruits and vegetables.
“Eat as much as colourful food items in your diet from the list of foods given. Keep your diet 50-70% raw. Only the ones, who have bloating or acidity issues, should not start with it immediately. First start with apple cider vinegar 1 tsp before breakfast, lunch and dinner to improve stomach acids and slowly adapt to this lifestyle,” she says.For instance, Gupta shares, the colour green is loaded with chlorophyll, rich in Vitamin A, C, E, K. It also contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. It aids healing, detoxify the body, provides digestive enzymes, restores energy, boosts immunity, reduces risk to cancer. Dark green leafy vegetables, green juice, green soups like spinach soup, green vegetables like tori, bhindi, beans, lauki, avocado, lime, spirulina, olives are good examples. Orange /yellow has carotenoids which is a precursor of vitamin A. It protects skin against sunlight, promotes eye health, improves immunity, reduces risk of heart disease, cancer and promotes healthy joints: orange, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, suran, apricot, mango, apricot, banana, kesar, gond, turmeric, tomatoes have carotenoids.Black/ brown foods have phytosterols which are heart-protective, reduce inflammation, boost memory, promote weight-loss, balance hormones. Almonds, walnuts, raisins, til, haleem, herbs, jaggery, coconut sugar and ginger are examples. “Planning daily meals in accordance with a colourful diet shows therapeutic effects on the body and benefits the immune system, vision, liver health, and general circulatory system. Filling your daily […]