EAT THE RAINBOW
The phrase ‘eat the rainbow’ is a great piece of nutritional advice that everyone can follow – I love the simplicity of it, as anyone, even children can easily follow this, without the need for understanding the science behind it. Variety is key for a healthy diet in general, and this definitely applies to fruit and vegetables too. Choosing fruit and veg of different colours is a guaranteed way to get the widest variety of nutrients. This is because the different colours of fruits and vegetables represent different combinations of phytochemicals, natural protective substances with a range of health benefits.
Phytochemicals are actually used by the plants themselves to protect them against environmental stressors, such as weather and pests and also to attract insects and birds for pollination. There are hundreds of different phytochemicals with strong protective powers and the amazing news is that when we eat them, those protective powers are passed on to us! Strong antioxidant action is one of the key features of phytochemicals, protecting our cells against damage from free radicals. They also confer a host of health benefits including protecting the heart, helping maintain healthy vision, keeping the immune system healthy and protecting us against premature ageing and disease.
Unfortunately, many of us in the UK tend to stick to a few ‘old favourites’ and are not very adventurous with our fruit and veg. Eating the rainbow is therefore a great inspiration to introduce more variety, which will in turn, help you to get the highest nutritional value out of your 5 (or preferably 7!) a-day. Each different colour has its own unique set of health benefits, so the more colours you eat the wider the range of beneficial nutrients you will be consuming. Ideally, pick at least one serving of fruit and veg from each different colour group every day if you can.
Rich in Red
Tomatoes, watermelon, guava and pink grapefruit contain lycopene – an antioxidant which protects the heart, helps protect against UV damage from the sun, maintains prostate health and can help lower cholesterol levels.
Tip: cooking actually increases lycopene’s effectiveness, so cooking tomatoes in sauces etc. will give even more benefits. Lycopene is fat soluble, so adding some olive oil to that sauce is also a good idea.
Other nutrients include ellagic acid found in strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate and cranberries which protects against disease, anthocyanins and plenty of vitamin C.
Lycopene-rich Tomato & Basil Sauce
Gently sauté 2-3 sliced garlic cloves in 1 tbsp olive oil, then add 400g fresh tomatoes, I use a mixture of large tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add a handful of torn basil leaves, and simmer for a further 15-20 mins uncovered until the sauce starts to become concentrated and slightly jammy in consistency. Serve with wholemeal spelt spaghetti and grated parmesan, if liked.
Bright Orange and Yellow
Beta-carotene gives these fruits and vegetables their rich colours and is a potent antioxidant that neutralises free radicals, protecting cells against damage and boosting our antioxidant defences. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, which is needed for maintaining healthy skin and vision.
This group also contains a range of other carotenoids including beta-cryptoxanthin and alpha-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A, as well as having their own protective effects in the body lutein.
Tropical Fruit Salad
Make a colourful fruit salad with as many different fruits as you can, including some beta-carotene rich fruits like papaya, apricots or mango. Also add fruits from the other colour groups such as kiwi, pomegranate and black grapes. Serve with Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt and some mixed nuts and seeds for a healthy breakfast.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high amounts in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli, these are carotenoids with antioxidant actions and help maintain healthy vision by protecting the retinas of the eye.
Many green veg also contain sulforaphane, which has anti-disease properties and keeps blood vessels healthy. Leafy greens, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and peas are also an excellent source of folate, needed for healthy red blood cell formation and minerals iron and magnesium.
Green fruit and vegetables also contain the green pigment chlorophyll, which has cleansing effects.
Blanch 90g kale by plunging into boiling water for 1 minute, then refreshing in cold water – this helps to retain the colour. Drain, pat dry with a tea towel and chop the kale. Meanwhile, beat 6 organic eggs, season with salt and pepper and then mix in the chopped kale. Pour into a pan, cook one side, then either flip the frittata using a plate if you are brave enough, or cook the top by placing your frying pan under the grill.
Powerful Purple and Blue
This group contains anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with powerful antioxidant effects, which bolster cellular antioxidant defences, protect the heart and may contribute to healthy brain function.
Black and red grapes also contain resveratrol, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Fact: The Okinawa people of Japan have one of the longest life expectancies of any population, generally living to more than 100. This has been attributed to their plant-based diet and high consumption of purple sweet potatoes. Look out for these, as they are becoming available in specialist food shops and larger supermarkets.
Make purple sweet potato chips by cutting into thin or thick chips as desired, sprinkling with olive oil, salt and some thyme, then cook in the oven at 180°C for 30-35 minutes. You can also make purple mash the same way you would use regular sweet potatoes.
The Beauty & Go Rainbow
Beauty and Go drinks also come in a rainbow of colours, containing a range of different phytochemicals and antioxidants from real fruits, vegetables, herbal extract and superfoods. Pick your colour!
Raspberry and pomegranate are a source of ellagic acid and anthocyanins, which contribute to healthy ageing
Red grapes contain anthocyanins and resveratrol and rosehip is a great source of lycopene for glowing and radiant skin
Mango provides protective beta-carotene, also a source of skin-boosting vitamin C
Spirulina, artichoke and green apple contain detoxifying chlorophyll to cleanse and purify skin
Anthycyanin-rich blackcurrants, grapes, apples and sweet potato protect your skin against winter stressors