Eat the Rainbow: Colour and Nutrition

I fondly remember my mother’s veggie patch and the colourful variety of fruit and vegetables she would grow. There was lettuce, purple cabbage, green beans, white squash, red and blue berries, carrots, radishes, corn, beetroot and the list goes on and on. These rainbow colours would make it onto our plates in various cooked and raw forms. What I didn’t know then was how eating a variety of colourful plant foods helps support optimal health by way of the numerous phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals contained in them.

Eating a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables is an excellent way to ensure your intake of necessary vitamins and minerals. It is very interesting how the colour of a certain plant indicates different valuable components within it. Each colour group carries its own set of naturally protective and healing substances, with the brightest colours representing the highest amounts of nutrition:

RED fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes and capsicum contain a natural pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which helps protect against heart disease and cancer.

BLUE-PURPLE fruit and vegetables such as blueberries, red cabbage, purple potatoes and eggplants are rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties which protect cells from damage and can help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

GREEN vegetables contain a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids, indoles and saponins, all of which have anti-cancer properties. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are also excellent sources of folate which is necessary to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow, convert carbohydrates into energy and make DNA.

ORANGE-YELLOW fruit and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots contain carotenoids such as beta-carotene. This phytochemical is converted into vitamin A which is helpful in maintaining healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes. A further compound found in orange vegetables is alpha-carotene which protects against cancer and is beneficial for skin and eye health.

BROWN-WHITE fruit and vegetables such as garlic, onions and leeks contain phytochemical compounds called allicins. These are known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties which can help fight against diseases by boosting your immune system.

Try to add as many different colours to your plate and be sure to change it up often to ensure you are providing your body with a variety of essential nutrients for optimal health.

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