Eat more plants, eat the rainbow, eat your veggies. These terms might be the new black of the nutrition world, but there is good reason. Plants provide fibre, phytonutrients, phytosterols, decrease inflammation in the body, regulate blood sugar, increase immunity, do not clog arteries, lower cholesterol and provide a source of protein that is not a saturated fat that you would get from an animal source.
What does this mean? A plate that is filled with at least half (or more) of colourful veg means clearer skin, better gut health, less bloat, less blood sugar spikes and crashes, less illness, more energy and lowered risk of disease. Sounds like our parents weren’t just nagging us to eat up our veggies, they were actually on to something.
The colours of fruits and veggies indicate their health benefits. Think of is as the plant’s way of grabbing our attention and telling us why we should eat them. And, variety is key to get in all the wonderful benefits each one has to offer. Here is what they are saying to us and how you can easily incorporate them in to your weekly meal plan:
Red: Foods like watermelon, beets, tomatoes and red peppers contain a red compound called lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant to protect our cells against damage caused by free radicals. It is linked to cardiovascular health by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol in our arteries….think “heart” when you see red foods. Try a roasted tomato sauce on gluten-free linquine, roasted beet hummus with veggie sticks, a big Greek salad with crispy red bell peppers, or grilled watermelon on a bed of greens topped with goat’s feta cheese.
Orange: It’s the beta carotene in orange foods that the body then converts to the important vitamin A. We need vitamin A for skin health, eye health, and to boost our immune system. Include foods like carrots in your muffins, squashes in your soups, and baked sweet potatoes drizzled with maple syrup and pecans.
Yellow: Foods like pineapple, lemons, yellow bell peppers, and yellow squashes are high in vitamin C, which our body uses to synthesize collagen. Incorporating yellow foods help to boost our immune system, give some integrity to our skin and joints, and help us digest protein with a naturally occurring enzyme that is found in pineapple. Try sqeezing lemon on your salads or start your day with a big glass of lemon water, snack on pineapple before protein-rich meals, and roast acorn squash with cranberries and pine nuts.
Green: So many superfoods are green. Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, kale, cucumber, green apples, green peppers, spirulina, and avocado all contain antioxidants, iron, healthy fats, and minerals to keep many of our body systems running. These foods are also rich in chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants it’s green colour and is how plants synthesize energy using sunlight. Include energy-boosting meals in your diet, like a smoothie with a handful of spinach, roasted brussels sprouts with garlic and capers, chocolate avocado pudding, and kale salad with green apple and dijon dressing.
Blue: The blue pigment in foods like blueberries and blackberries is a powerful antioxidant and reduces inflammation in the body. The pigment comes from anthocyanins, which protect the body against cancer, eye and brain deterioration, and improve heart health. Aim for a cup a day of blueberries in smoothies or salads, and try making your own chia jam with blackberries.
Purple: Eggplant, purple cauliflower, plums and purple grapes all contain the same anthocyanins that the blue foods contain, plus all the vitamins and minerals that help boost immunity and protect cardiovascular health. Try a glass of organic red wine (yes!), roasted purple cauliflower soup, and eggplant lasagna.
Up for a plant-based challenge? Try to eat a new colour each day to complete your rainbow menu. Fill most of your plate with veggies, add a protein (can be plant-based, too!), and a healthy fat. Know that each bite you swallow is nourishing your cells, protecting you against many diseases, giving your skin a glow, feeding your gut microflora, and boosting your energy. Thank you, Mother Nature 🙂