Eating the Rainbow!

Twenty-something years ago when I first started my practice, we would focus on vitamins, minerals, fibre and water when helping patients with their diet. Today we emphasize “phyto-nutrients” or “phyto-chemicals”. The word “phyto-“ means plant. Many of these chemicals give foods their colour and smell. Eating a wide variety of colourful pigments in plants has major health benefits. Many years ago, it was not really known that the pigment making a blueberry “blue”, would have health benefits. Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals. These chemical compounds are produced by plants to protect them from threats like fungi, predators, bacteria and parasites (could be thought of as part of the plant’s immune system!) So essentially, eat the plant’s immune system! Eat the rainbow! Add colour to your plate! Examples of phytonutrients include: Lycopene which gives a red or pink colour to tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, has been linked to improved prostate health. Lutein and Zeaxanthin has been linked to eye health. Ellagic acid is found in strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates and Resveratrol is found in purple grape juice. Glucosinolates are found in cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli. There are over 25 000 phytochemicals known and research is discovering more! Generally the following guideline can be used:

Red foods=high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, immune system modulation. Examples: cherries, raspberries, red apples, beetroot, tomato. Anti-inflammation.

Orange foods=high in carotenoids and have endocrine-regulating activity. Examples: carrots, papaya, pumpkin. Ovulation, fertility, reproductive health.

Yellow foods= high in fibre, supports microbiome. Examples: pineapple, banana, lemon. Gastrointestinal health, motility and digestive secretion.

Green foods =high in vitamin K, folate, magnesium, potassium. Examples: kale, kiwi fruit, avocado. Cardiovascular health. Blood vessel support and circulation.

Blue-Purple foods=high in polyphenols. Examples: plums, figs, blueberries, eggplant. Brain and eye health. Memory, learning, cognition and vision.

White/Tan/Brown foods=high in allicin, quercetin and indoles. Examples: onions, mushrooms, garlic. Cell protection.

In a nutshell: “Eat the Rainbow!”.