Wellness: Eating a rainbow spectrum of fruits and vegetables is the key to better immunity
Richly coloured vegetables and fruits are pleasing to the eye and appear fresh and nutritious in the store, which tempts us to buy that colourful fare. Different colours indicate a wide variety of nutrients in fruits as well as vegetables. Flavonoids present in plants are the natural pigments that give them their colour. They also have antioxidant and cell-protecting properties. So now we know why our parents used to add different colours to our plates, because these naturally occurring bright-coloured vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, which help us control the oxidative stress in body.
The sad part is that few food manufacturers use strong colours or dyes to make their products look more appealing, so it’s always better that you focus on buying organic produce that ensures you get the antioxidants you expect from a natural bright coloured fruit or vegetable. Various colours indicate different nutrient properties in these veggies or fried, so this Holi, let’s focus on getting a little of each colour in your routine to maximise the nutritional benefits. Here are a few healthy colour options:
● BLUE & PURPLE: They contain anthocyanins, which is a natural plant pigment with superpowerful antioxidant properties that may help us reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. They also contain flavonoids and ellagic acid, compounds that may destroy cancer cells, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. The anthocyanins and ellagic acid in blueberries have been shown to fight cancer cells in the lungs, stomach, breasts and pancreas. Anthocyanins and ellagic acid also show anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent cancer of the esophagus and colon. These compounds are found in fruits and vegetables such as eggplants, purple cabbages, purple peppers, purple onions, purple sweet potatoes, blueberries, black/purple grapes, cranberries, etc.
● ORANGE & YELLOW: These fruits and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene that is converted to Vitamin A by our body, and we all know that Vitamin A is really important and helps us improve our vision. It also helps keep your skin, teeth and bones healthy. They also contain folate, an antioxidant that prevents neural tube defects in unborn infants. An adequate Vitamin A intake may also lower your risk of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.These pigments are found in foods suc as papayas, carrots, butternut squash, yellow and orange bell peppers, pumpkins, corn and sweet potatoes, which are rich in pigments called carotenoids.
● RED: Red fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, tomatoes, red peppers, guavas, watermelons, red cabbages, kidney beans, cherries, strawberries and beets are likely to be rich in the antioxidants lycopene and anthocyanins. A medium raw tomato provides 3.2 micrograms of lycopene, a carotenoid that helps your body make a good amount of Vitamin A and the benefits we have already seen. Foods with natural red pigments contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant phytonutrient that may help protect against many illness and even prostate cancer. They also contain flavonoids known as anthocyanins, which have antioxidant properties that may help boost immunity and reduce your risk of various diseases. They may also benefit your memory and protect urinary tract health.
● GREEN: Greenery gives a calming effect to your eyes and mind, so does these green foods, as they are good for your eyes plus bones and teeth too, and their Vitamin K content helps your blood to clot properly. A two-cup serving of raw spinach provides 290 of the 90 to 120 micrograms of Vitamin K you need each day. The antioxidants and vitamins, particularly Vitamins C and E from green food may lower your risk of chronic diseases. They provide the phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant nutrients deposited in the retinas of your eyes. Getting an adequate amount of which may protect you from vision loss, due to eye diseases such as macular degeneration. Collard greens, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, peas, spinach, fenugreek, green cucumber, kiwi, green apple and zucchini are a good source.
● White: White fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, bananas, cauliflowers, garlic, mushroom, white onions, radish and cucumbers are high in dietary fibre, helping protect you from high cholesterol; and in antioxidant-rich flavonoids, such as quercetin, which is abundant in apples and pears. They may also lower your risk of stroke. A study by American Heart Association in 2011 found that people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables had a 52 per cent lower risk of stroke. White food activates our natural killer cells and reduces the risk of cancer.
Fruits and vegetables are seen in all possible colours, like of a rainbow, making a striking display in a basket or on your plate. The colours are pretty for sure, but more than that they also reflect the presence of powerful phytonutrients (antioxidants), naturally occurring chemicals that shield plants from disease and bacteria while they are growing. When you ingest plant foods in a spectrum of colours, you reap the benefits of these phytonutrients.
So go ahead and enjoy that colourful basket or plate of healthy food this festive season, and forever after!