Colour-code your meal

Colour-code your meal

Rainbow diet can be the key to good health

We have grown up hearing that we can find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Though that was a belief, the fact is that if not the pot of gold, we can at least get a healthy life if we follow the rainbow diet.

Consuming nutritious food forms an important part of a person’s effort to live a healthy life. It not only increases one’s productivity but also keeps ailments at bay. Colour of the fruits and vegetables not only make the food look appetising but these colours also contribute to its nutritional value.

The naturally occurring chemical compounds in fruits and vegetables, scientifically called phytochemicals, which give them their natural colour, play an essential role in preventive and therapeutic nutrition. Five to six servings of fruits and vegetables are found to prevent cardiovascular diseases, improve gut health, vision, promote skin health etc. This is because they enrich a person with powerful antioxidants that boost their immune system and provide protection.

Robust reds

Red coloured fruits and vegetables help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, tumour growth and LDL cholesterol levels. This group includes beets, cherries, cranberries, guava, papaya, pomegranates, etc. They bring down the risk of developing osteoporosis and diabetes. These fruits and vegetables contain a plant compound called carotenoids, which in turn contains beta-carotene. Carotenoids are converted into vitamin A once a patient consumes it. Vitamin A boosts the immune system, promotes bone growth and regulates cell growth and division. Lutein and zeaxanthin along with vitamin A are important for healthy vision.

Golden yellows

Fruits and vegetables which are orange and yellow in colour contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients reduce age-related macular degeneration, prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. They also promote the formation of collagen and healthy joints, encourage alkaline balance, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones. Some of them include apricots, muskmelons, carrots, lemon, mangoes, oranges and papayas. These help in developing healthy skin and are known for their anti-ageing properties.

Clean greens

Dark green vegetables like spinach, fenugreek leaves, radish leaves, broccoli and coriander are powerhouses of functional food components. A meal without greens is considered incomplete. They are rich in chlorophyll, fibre, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamins C and B, calcium, and beta-carotene. Green fruits and vegetables are also known to reduce the risk of cancer, normalise digestion, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost the immune system.

Bursts of purple

All kinds of berries, grapes, aubergine, plums and figs contain high levels of anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidin pigments. Grape seed extract is found to prevent diseases such as atherosclerosis, gastric ulcer, large bowel cancer, cataracts and diabetes. Both plums and figs also happen to be excellent sources of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamin C, and fibre. Brinjals are very low in calories, yet rich sources of potassium and calcium.

Vital whites

A good immune system can reduce the risk of diseases and also help us recover faster. Consuming whites can help in achieving that. These fruits and vegetables include beta-glucans, lignans, etc, that provide powerful immune boosting activity. These nutrients also activate lymphocytes involved in adaptive immunity (B and T cells), reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers. Some of the whites that can be included in the diet are bananas, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots and turnips.

(The author is the chief dietician, Fortis Hospitals)

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