We should all aim to eat a rainbow every day (and no, I’m not talking about skittles and m&ms!). A variety of colourful fruit and vegetables will bring us a rainbow of colour and nutrients. To optimise health and prevention of disease, we need to eat 5 serves of veggies and 2 fruits every day!
Each fruit and vegetable’s vibrant colour is caused by specific phytonutrients in the plant and brings the food it’s own distinctive variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals our body needs to thrive.
It is easy to fall into the habit of buying, cooking and eating the same limited variety of fruits and vegetable that you and your family like, but a wide variety is the key as most people fall short in most colour category of phytonutrients.
RED fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, including lycopene, anthocyanins and ellagic acid which have been studied and linked with reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, age-related vision impairment, preventing certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer, and improving skin quality.
ORANGE AND YELLOW foods are full of carotenoids, beta-caotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. These foods have been associated with improving immune function, decreasing the risk of various cancers and heart disease, promoting healthy joints, skin and eye health and vision.
GREEN fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients and chlorophyll which is loaded with antioxidants that promote well-being. Green fruits and vegetables are one of healthiest foods we can eat and are rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane, glucosinolate, isothiocyanates, isoflavones as well as many other nutrients.
Green plants have been linked with reducing risk of several cancers, blood vessel damage, heart disease, boosting the immune system and energy levels.
BLUE AND PURPLE fruits and vegetables are rich in the phytonutrients anthocyanins and resveratrol, and have been studied extensively for their anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. These phytochemicals work to repair damage from oxidative stress and inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
I need to clarify here that these phytonutrients in their whole-food form (ie eating them in a real food) have shown to be beneficial, however taking these in supplement form has not shown the same benefit and isn’t recommended as they may increase the risk of some health complications.
Include a varied array of phytonutrients into your diet and reap their benefits! Try cooking with a wider range of vegetables, try new recipes and develop an appreciation for new foods.
Eating a rainbow is harder for kids who are still learning to like veggies! Always expose children to as many different nutritious foods as possible. Don’t give up if they refuse the new vegetable the first, second, third or even fourth time theyre offered it. It can take around 20 times of being exposed to a new food before children learn to accept it. They may start by flicking it off the plate, then being okay with it there, then poking or picking it up, then licking it or tasting and spitting it out. Eventually, with repeated exposure and no pressure to eat it, they will learn to accept it – especially if they see other family members/parents eating it!
Other types of exposure to vegetables will also help kids be more curious about them, reduce anxiety around eating them and make them more likely to try them, accept and even like them! Reading about them, looking at and talking about them in the supermarket, helping to grow, prepare and cook them, and especially seeing them on the plate every day helps.
Even colouring them in may help, so download the ‘Eat a Vegetable Rainbow’ colouring page here and lettuce see your little one’s best colouring! There will be winners announced in March 2020, but feel free to colour the page anytime!