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Colour Your Plate: Maximise The Health Benefits Of The Foods You Eat–Eat by Colour

by Lou-Ann Jordan May 20, 2019

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We’re sure you’re familiar with the tagline “taste the rainbow”, well we want to challenge you to eat the rainbow.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals.  These phytochemicals give them their diverse range of colours.  Yes, just like the rainbow.  Nutrition experts categorise food into different colour groups.  Red, yellow/orange, purple/blue, green and brown/white is the most common classification.

In this series, Colour Your Plate, we will take a look at the various colour categories of food, and offer recipes you can try.

However, to get you started, let’s examine each colour, its benefits and the fruits and vegetables that fall within the group.

Red group

The vegetables and fruits which fall into this group contain the antioxidant, lycopene.  On the whole, antioxidants are essential because they protect the body from free radicals.  A diet rich in lycopene may be beneficial in preventing prostate cancer, as well as, other types of cancer.  Lycopene also helps in promoting a healthy heart.

Your red foods

  • Radish, tomato, strawberry, cherry, watermelon, red apple, pink grapefruit, raspberry, kidney beans, red onion, and cranberries.

Did you know that one glass of tomato juice provides you with half of the recommended consumption of lycopene?

Yellow group

This group receives its colour from carotenoids.  One such carotenoid is beta-carotene, which isn’t of itself an essential nutrient.  However, it converts to vitamin A, and a suitable level of this vitamin has significant benefits.  Some benefits are healthy skin and mucous membranes, as well as good eye health and vision.  Also, vitamin A helps slow cognitive decline.  In addition to beta-carotene, lutein is another carotenoid found in yellow foods.  Lutein, the eye vitamin, helps protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which can lead to blindness.

Your yellow foods

  • Carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, pineapple, mango, corn, oranges, squash, peach, grapefruit, lemon, honeydew melon, tangerines, and cantaloupe.

Did you know that an orange contains over 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C?

Purple/blue group

Anthocyanin is the natural plant pigment that gives fruits and vegetables of this group their purple or blue colour. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid that offers the effect of antioxidants and helps to prevent heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and cancer.  Foods of this group boost overall because they contain an army of nutrients.

Your purple/blue foods

  • Beetroot, eggplant, red cabbage, purple grapes, plums, blueberries, blackberries, and prunes.

Did you know that red wine, as it is made from grapes, contains anthocyanin?

Green group

Fruits and vegetables coloured green contain indoles, sulforaphane and isocyanate. All three chemicals offer anti-cancer properties as they ward off carcinogens.  Also, spinach and broccoli and other green leafy vegetables are wonderful sources of folate.

Your green foods

Spinach, broccoli, callaloo, avocado, pears, green apples, limes, green grapes, lettuce, cabbage, celery, cucumber, kale, bok choi (pak choi), watercress, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus.

Did you know that broccoli is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet containing vitamin E and K, folate, potassium, iron, manganese, B vitamins and even protein?

White/brown foods

Allicin is the phytochemical found in foods and vegetables of this category.  Allicin has antiviral and antibacterial properties.  Some white foods have the antioxidant flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol.  Both of these flavonoids boast anti-inflammatory properties.

Your white/brown foods

  • Cauliflower, garlic, banana, potatoes, onions, ginger, mushrooms, dates, and brown pears.

Did you know that in addition to combatting the common cold, garlic can lower your cholesterol level?

Never before has there been a better reason to decorate your plate.  Why taste the rainbow, when you should be taking a big bite out of it?

We invite you to start combining colours.  However, if you need some help, stay tuned for our next issue of Colour Your Plate, where we offer recipes by food colour.


Sources: Nutrition Australia, CBS News, Healthline, Medical News Today, and Very Well Health