The Unique Benefits of Eating Colorful Foods
Consuming a diet well varied in all the nutritional colors to support health is essential for optimal living. The colors of nutrition come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and of course, colors. Every product of Earth contains a unique design created to fulfill a function.
As it is often said, eat the rainbow to ensure that you are feeding your body super nutrients that equip your cells like defense weapons against every day stressors and aging. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will maximize the body’s ability to heal daily and prevent against all forms of diseases and cancers.
Eat the Rainbow:
From the beautiful colors which make up a rainbow and then some, filling your plate daily should also reflect your view of a rainbow. The powerful nutrients that make up each fruit and vegetable supports your desire for health from boosting immune function, maintaining skin elasticity and preventing wrinkles and signs of aging, preventing cancer, increasing longevity, improving heart function and detoxifying your body of contaminants. No single fruit or vegetable will provide all the nutrients you need for health but eating a variety will provide you with the powerful nutrition it requires (2).
Unlike animal products and processed foods which are generally acidic and increase body acidity, fruits and vegetables help to counteract this imbalance of pH typical of the American Diet. Few fruits and vegetables are acidic in nature like tomatoes and snow peas. Foods closer to a neutral pH are dates and figs, plums, green bananas, coconut and blueberries.
More basic varieties include most berries like raspberries and blackberries, and also kiwis, celery, sprouts, cruciferous vegetables, lemons and many greens such as kale. Most fruits and vegetables have a basic pH meaning that they are alkaline foods which help to counteract body acidity. (1)
Red fruits and vegetables contain a powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid pigmented family. Lycopene makes tomatoes red, grapefruit pink and red and colors watermelon, guava, papaya, red bell peppers and goji berries making all of these foods incredibly healthy. Gac is a fruit in South Asia that contains more than 70 times the concentration of lycopene than does any tomato product by volume (6).
It is best to consume lycopene with a fat source as this will increase its bioavailability to the body. Gac fruit contains both saturated and unsaturated fats and therefore is easily available to our cells without being consumed with a complementary fat source (6).
Consider preparing tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil to release the lycopene for optimum absorption from the food. Eating lycopene rich foods prevents cancer development and inflammation of the arteries. Lycopene achieves this preventative effect by diligently scouting free radicals and neutralizing them.
Beta carotene is an antioxidant found in orange colored fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, apricots, carrots, mangos and yams. Again, “Gac” is the Vietnamese superfood that has more than 10 times the amount of beta carotene as do carrots (6).
Beta carotene is essential to the health of your eyes and prevents night blindness and maintains eye function. This potent antioxidant also stabilizes the immune system and improves the health of your skin. Beta carotene aids in healing by ridding free radicals from the body which wreak havoc on tissue and lead to cancerous cells. (3)
A few other unknown places you can also find beta-carotene are in red-leaf lettuce, collard greens, dried basil, butternut squash and even turnip greens (3). Perhaps a hearty Thanksgiving feast is one of the most bountiful feasts Americans eat in a year containing an array of vegetables loaded with beta-carotene.
One of the most critical life-providing agents on the planet, chlorophyll embodies the phrase “color of life.” The chlorophyll content of any plant based food product is a substantial indicator of the foods health attributes. Chlorophyll helps to create blood cells and detoxify the body of cancerous agents and toxic substances from such treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. Chlorophyll provides foods with the green color and the deepest green foods are rich in this healing antioxidant.
Green fruits and vegetables may be the best super-nutrient compact foods to eat as they not only contain chlorophyll but they also are richly concentrated with other antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids may improve retina function and protect your eyes.
Green foods are also high in vitamins and minerals like copper, magnesium, folate, B6 and potassium. Kale and collard greens are just a couple of example of vegetables that provide you with methyl cysteine sulfoxides and glucosinolates. These two powerful nutrients stimulate detoxification by activating enzymes in the liver which help remove carcinogenic substances from the body. (3)
Blue and Purple:
Dark blue and purple pigmented foods at beauty and amazing health benefits to any meal. Blue and purple fruits and veggies are highly concentrated in flavonoids, antioxidants and phytochemicals with incredible prevention and healing properties. Anthocyanins is a phytochemical group which provides the darkest pigmentation in foods like blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, plums, blueberries, red cabbage and eggplant.
Anthocyanins are one of the best cancer preventative nutrients found in Earth’s bounty that provide the following abilities:
- Inhibit DNA damage within cells
- Slow cancerous activities such as abnormal cell formation
- Enhance apoptosis of cancerous cells
- Decrease inflammatory pathways that stimulate cancer development
Researchers believe that our ancestors ate an abundance of foods containing anthocyanins and that most people today are severely deficient in this anti-cancerous nutrient. Eating berries and grapes has an added benefit because they contain a polyphenolic compound you likely have heard of called resveratrol.
Resveratrol has been shown again and again to inhibit cancer growth and recently has been shown that it can inhibit the formation of skin cancer. Resveratrol may even improve skin health by inhibiting the appearance of age spots contributed to by UV-B rays. (5)
A sulfur containing compound known as allicin is abundantly found in the onion family. Such foods include scallions, leeks, onions and garlic. Allicin destroys viruses, bacteria and fungi and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in destroying cancer, reducing inflammatory damage to the vascular system and also lowers cholesterol.
Mushrooms are equipped with nutrients critical for a healthy functioning immune system found in selenium, vitamin B6, vitamin D, zinc, beta-glucan and copper. Such nutrients provided by mushrooms also enhance glutathione synthesis which is a powerhouse antioxidant. White cauliflower contains incredible anti-cancer nutrients like sulforaphanes and phytochemicals Indole-3-Carbonyl which are some of the best known cancer fighting nutrients (4).
Although white potatoes are perfectly healthy, they are on the high glycemic index and you should seek out alternative potato alternatives such as a large variety of sweet potatoes. The white flesh of an apple should be consumed with its skin no matter what color (pink fijis, green grannys, red macintosh).
Tips on Eating more Fruits and Veggies
Make your fruits and vegetables a wholesome meal. Salads don’t have to be boring with only tomato and cucumbers atop a bed of greens. Be creative and make your salads fit any night of the week. Make Taco Tuesday night a delicious meal of mixed greens with diced red onion, sautéed yellow and red tomatoes, detoxifying cilantro, chopped green onion, red cabbage wedges with guacamole and maybe even some sweet potato chips and an avocado lime dressing.
Swap out artificial coloring agents for natural food dye. Juice carrots and oranges for a sweet orange coloring agent. You can also use turmeric for a lower carb version of color. Beets and red cabbage both make a great purple coloring agent that can be used in various recipes. Forget artificial sweeteners at brunch and opt for a homemade elderberry puree on top of your grain-free pancakes for added nutritional benefits.
Now we want to hear from you. How do you like to incorporate colors into your food?