In recent years, one activity that has seen positive correlation with increase in the wealth of an individual is the availability of food choices.
Thanks to the mushrooming of food service retailers, super marketers, shopping malls, eateries, etc. our plate is overloaded with “super foods”, “fortified foods” or “miracle foods”.
The never ending marketing strategies of food industry has eaten away once a normal diet to “fad diet”, “ketogenic diet”, “paleo diet”, “gluten diet”, etc.
Phew, isn’t that too complex and overwhelming?!
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates (Father of medicine)
The above quote by Hippocrates illustrates the wisdom of our ancestors and also points towards a solution to the “problem of plenty” we seem to be facing today.
Instead of having one or more power foods, it is best to have combination of various colors of fruits or vegetables in your platter.
We all have one or more colors best loved by us as they give distinct meaning to our life. However, I feel when talking about vegetables & fruits every shade holds a huge importance.
Fill your plate with the colors of rainbow. What pleases the eye, pleases the body as a whole – Deepak Chopra in his book “What are you hungry for”
Nobody can be a bigger painter than Mother Nature herself. She has given so many colors to fruits & vegetables that at times the uniqueness is baffling. However, these hues have much more to them.
Going behind the science, a vegetable or fruit gets their distinct color due to the presence of phytochemicals or phytonutrients in plants. Foods with phytonutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. They are loaded with essential nutrients due to phytochemicals.
By now we know that, fruits and vegetables not just contain vitamins & minerals but phytonutrients also. There is, therefore, an increasing advocacy of “eat by color” approach.
It is intriguing to look at the super powers possessed by different colors of produce:
Red is the ultimate cure for sadness(Bill Blass)
They are packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium, manganese, fiber, lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, hesperidin.
They help in reducing inflammation, fighting cancer, protect against heart diseases, fight against viruses and infections, build up the immune system, fights bad cholesterol, etc.
Red fruits & vegetables: Red cabbage, Tomatoes, Beetroots, Red Bell pepper, Radish, Red leaf lettuce, Red onion, Strawberries, Cherries, Cranberries, Raspberries, Watermelon, etc.
A certain blue enters your soul(Henri Matisse)
They contain minerals such as copper & iron, Vitamins as C,K, B-6, B-12, fiber and anthocyanidin.
They help in boosting the functions of brain, improve heart health, lowers risk of high blood pressure, fights off cancer, slows down aging, improves vision, reduces diabetes, etc.
Blue/Purple fruits & vegetables: Blueberries, Eggplants, Figs, Purple Cauliflower, Purple Asparagus, Purple Carrots, Purple Grapes, Plums, etc.
A meter of green is greener than a centimetre(Paul Gauguin)
They are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens contain vitamin K, magnesium, B vitamins, folic acid, potassium, calcium and dietary nitrates. They are high in fibers & low in calories.
They help in weight management, cardio-vascular diseases, prevents type 2 diabetes, improves immune function, keep eyes healthy, prevents from cancer.
Green fruits & vegetables: Spinach, Bottle Gourd, Snake Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Broccoli, Asparagus, Peas, Avocado, Green Apples, Green Grapes, Limes, Pears, etc.
When life gives you lemons…they could really be oranges(Ellen DeGeneres)
These vegetables are rich in vitamins A, B6, and C, folate, fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium & phosphorus.
They help in fighting off prostate cancer, reduces bad cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, help in building healthy bones, improves immune system, encourages pH balance of the body, improves reproductive system.
Yellow/Orange fruits & vegetables: Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Corn, Orange & Yellow Peppers, Yellow beets, Oranges, Lemons, Papaya, Banana, Mangoes, Apricots.
As white as a snow
They are a very good source of potassium. They have abundance of vitamin C and sulfur compounds.
They help in maintaining healthy cholesterol, reduces the risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer, help in maintaining digestive system, reduces the cardio-vascular diseases, strengthens bone tissue, etc.
White/Brown fruits & vegetables: Cauliflower, Garlic, Ginger, Mushrooms, Onions, Potatoes, Turnip, White Corn, etc.
THE DENSE THE BETTER – Count color also & not just calories
It will be relevant to quote Dr. Michael Gregor here “Eat the rainbow. You can see with your eyes these plants pigments with the health benefits, so choose the blackest blackberry, the reddest strawberry….because the plant pigments themselves are the antioxidants, anti-aging, anti-cancer molecules.”
According to Louis Premkumar, a professor of pharmacology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, “look for deep-hued foods like berries, dark greens, melons and spices. These foods also are rich in flavor and aroma, which makes them more palatable. But some phytonutrient-rich foods have little color, like onions and garlic, and you don’t want to discount them” (in his book “Fascinating Facts about Phytonutrients in Spices and Healthy Foods”).
A recently published WHO/FAO report recommends a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies, especially in less developed countries. (Courtesy: World Health Organization)
Despite the widely known health benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables, low intakes are historically consistent with data recently available. It is seen that increasing the quantity of fruits and vegetables have a tremendous impact in reducing various ailments.
In a Dutch prospective study over ten years, it was found that higher intakes of white fruits and vegetables were inversely associated with incident stroke. For each twenty-five gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples and pears), there was a 9% lower risk of stroke.
Along similar lines, the same research group found that, with each twenty-five gram per day increase in the intake of deep orange fruits and vegetables, there was an inverse association with coronary heart disease (CHD). Of these orange foods, carrots were the largest contributor (60%) with a 32% lower risk of CHD. (Courtesy: NCBI)
The above facts are an eye opener, especially in the times of pandemic, as having a strong immune system is imperative.
I strongly feel that cooking at home and adding more fruits & vegetables in your diet can do wonders for your health. Hence, experiment a lot with all the veggies available in your kitchen and make your life radiant.
PS: A strong recommendation is to consume fresh and organically produced fruits and vegetables, if possible, to reap maximum health benefits.