[dropcap]N[/dropcap]utrition experts recommend eating colorful meals. But a “colorful meal” is one that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, not a bag of leftover Halloween trick-or-treat candy!
You know the drill, “fruits and veggies are full of vitamins.” But there’s more. Colorful meals are simply much more attractive. When looking at dishes in food blogs–playfully referred to as “food porn”–you can probably agree that the most tantalizing dishes are usually full of vivid colors.
Making sure all your meals are colorful goes far beyond the idea of pleasing the eye. The pigments that give fruits and veggies their lovely blue, red, yellow, and green colors also contribute to your well-being by providing incredible nutrients.
Discover the colors behind the rainbow diet
We can divide the pigments found naturally in our foods into four main categories. Also known as phytonutrients, they provide great nutrients and are found in plants:
This group contains the widest range when it comes to colors, varying from pale-yellow to blue. Flavonoids is a familiar term because when we discuss the health benefits of fruits and veggies, flavonoid content is usually mentioned. Flavonoids are considered heart friendly because they contain cholesterol-lowering properties and also great antioxidant activity.
One of the most talked about flavonoids are the anthocyanins that add the blue to blueberries. These are responsible for giving blueberries, cranberries, and grapes (to name a few) their rich colors along with some of their great health benefits. This antioxidant is responsible for orange to blue colors and in addition to providing anti-aging benefits, they play a role in the ripening of fruits, which is why we see the change of color from green when a fruit is ripe and sweet and ready to enjoy.
Less popular than the previous group and not as well understood, betalains are responsible for some of the bright pigments found in nature such as the reds from betacyanins and yellow from betaxanthins. If you think the name of this pigment group reminds you a lot of beets, you’re on the right track! The beautiful vibrant colors found in beets are mainly due to betacyanins and have been shown to provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support to our bodies.
Responsible for rich yellows and oranges like in the case of mango and carrots, eating foods that contain carotenoids is extremely important for our bodies because its structure is broken down to produce vitamin A. This nutrient not only supports our eyes but also stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells and promotes cell growth, especially when we are talking about the cells that line the surfaces inside our bodies. Incredibly enough, there are about 500 different carotenoids and just to name a few, lutein and lycopene found in tomatoes are types of carotenoids, as well as astaxanthin, which gives the pink color found in plants and salmon.
Last, but certainly not least, chlorophyll is the best known group. This group is responsible for the green color and its role in nature is crucial since this is a key player in the production of oxygen during photosynthesis. And as we learned in middle-school biology class, this is a critical step in a plant’s survival.
Many leafy green veggies, such as spinach, are a great source of vitamin K and B vitamins. Also, some green veggies fall under the cruciferous group, including broccoli, which have a powerful sulfur-containing compound that promotes the elimination of potential carcinogens as well as anti-inflammatory activity.
As we can see, the larger variation of fruits and veggies that is added to your meals, the more nutrients you’ll be giving your body. And this is why eating colorful meals, or eating a rainbow, is the best way to give you a phytonutrient boost!
To get you started on your journey to more colorful and nutrient-loaded meals, add more fruits and veggies. Some suggestions follow.
For more information, you may contact Raisa Cavalcante, Nutritionist at PureFormulas, at email@example.com