Do you eat the rainbow?
How many portions of fruit & vegetables should we eat?
If your household is anything like mine, it’s a constant battle to get the kids to eat their 5 portions of fruit and veg a day! As recommended by the UK government, being the minimum you should consume to help maintain a healthy diet!
Most developed nations have a similar recommendation but how many should we really be eating? A study in 2014 by University Collage London concluded that ‘5 a day’ was not enough and a healthy diet should contain 10 portions of fruit and vegetables!! This is also supported by a meta data study at Imperial College London which identified that eating 10 a day provides an increased protection against all forms of mortality.
Nature cleverly provides us with the whole spectrum of colours in our foods, to ensure we eat all the different types of nutrients that will nourish and heal our bodies. Fruits and vegetables fall into 5 different colour categories (handy hey?). Each colour carries its own set of unique phytochemicals, which help combat disease. These phytochemicals are what give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours.
A typical serving of fruit or vegetables is roughly equivalent to half a cup or to be more accurate and as defined by the NHS is two or more small-sized, one piece of medium-sized or half a piece of large fresh fruit; or two broccoli spears or four heaped tablespoons of cooked kale, spinach, spring greens or green beans; or three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables; or three sticks of celery, a 5 cm piece of cucumber, one medium tomato or seven cherry tomatoes; or three or more heaped tablespoons of beans or pulses. You get the idea!!!
So what are the benefits of eating colourful fruits & vegetables?
The benefits of red, purple & blue foods
Fruits and vegetables with red, purple and blue hues contain pigments called anthocyanins, which act as powerful antioxidants in the human body. They are known for their ability to support the heart and cardiovascular system, as well as memory. Anthocyanins have also been linked to decreased risk of macular degeneration, certain types of cancer, and stroke, although more research is needed.
Red, purple and blue produce have particularly high levels of certain nutrients, too. Strawberries, beets, and kidney beans are loaded with folic acid. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, red or pink grapefruit, blueberries, and red bell peppers all are packed with vitamin C.
Cherries, prunes, and aubergine are good sources of fibre, which helps us stay fuller for longer, and balance blood sugar levels. Cranberries are known for their unique ability to help protect against urinary tract infections, thanks to certain compounds called proanthocyanidins, which prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
Types of red, purple & blue foods
Red food sources include apples, kidney beans, bell peppers, cranberries, cherries, goji berries, red onions, radishes, raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries, rhubarb, tomato, watermelon.
Purple and blue foods include blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, aubergine, figs, grapes, kale, olives, plums, potatoes, prunes, raisins and black rice.
The benefits of orange & yellow foods
We’re often told as kids to eat all of our carrots as they’ll help us see in the dark. This belief does have truth to it, since carrots and other orange produce contain high levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant which helps protect our eyes from macular degeneration, and supports night vision.
Other nutrients found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables include vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and bromelaine. Although oranges are famous sources of vitamin C, other produce contains just as much, if not more vitamin C than oranges. Sources include sweet potatoes, yellow bell peppers, peaches, mangoes and papaya.
Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash contain plenty of potassium, which is essential for helping reduce high blood pressure. The bromelaine found in some yellow and orange fruits, including pineapples, is known to help support the immune system to help fight infection and reduce inflammation associated with histamine and allergies.
Types of orange & yellow foods
Apricots, bell peppers, carrots, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, tangerines and turmeric are all good sources of orange containing plant pigments.
Bananas, bell peppers, corn, ginger, lemon, millet, pineapple, starfruit and summer squash are good sources of yellow antioxidants.
The benefits of green foods
Leafy greens should be a regular part of the diet, since they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants for all round health. The darker the greens, the better, since darker shades indicate denser sources of nutrients including folic acid, magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, and beta-carotene.
Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts, also contain a powerful molecule called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). When ingested, I3C is converted to diindolylmethane (DIM), which is said to have benefits in helping to balance the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.
Types of green foods
Apples, artichokes, asparagus, avocado, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumber, green beans, green peas, kale, limes, olives, pears, spinach and courgettes are ideal sources of green foods.
The benefits of white, tan & brown foods
When we think of white foods, an image of the family party buffet filled with beige food with sausage rolls, bread and cakes usually springing to mind. However, the natural sources of white, tan and brown foods are highly beneficial, as they boast high levels of B vitamins, folic acid and vitamin C.
White foods are also good sources of resistant starch. This type of starch feed the friendly bacteria in the gut, and in turn increase the production of short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats that our cells need to function, and butyrate is the preferred energy source for the cells in the colon wall. Keeping these cells healthy means protecting the integrity of the gut lining to prevent inflammation and stop unwanted food particles and pathogens from passing through into the blood stream.
Types of white, tan & brown foods
White, tan and brown foods include cauliflower, cocoa, coffee, coconut, garlic, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, white onions, seeds, shallots, tahini, soy, tea and whole grains.
So what colour eater are you and do you eat the rainbow every day?
It is clear from all our reading, research and life experience just how crucial it is that we get as many of these colours into our daily diet. The nutrient compounds contained in each of these foods/food groups, offer potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to protect, fuel and repair every delicate cell in our bodies from the damage we’re exposed to in our modern lives, meaning more time on this planet and more importantly on the bike.