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Food colours and nutrition

The two fundamental aspects of the lush colour in foods are balance and variety, which seduce our palate with taste, appeal and nutrition.

Did you know that the colours found in various foods represent 25,000 chemicals that are beneficial?

There is a strong link between the vibrancy of a food's colour and its health-promoting benefits. So the next time you visit your local bazaar, go wild picking a range of hues and make a rainbow each time out of your selections.

Buy foods in vivid shades of green, orange, yellow, purple and red, for not only are they visually enticing, they are also packed with nutritional properties. Even foods that have lighter colours -- garlic, onions, leeks, cabbage, celery etc -- have plenty of nutritious properties.

So, what's in the colour?

A piece of trivia to note -- the compounds that give fruit and vegetables their bright appearance are also responsible for giving them their unique health-promoting properties. They are bio-active compounds occurring naturally in foods that provide more than just nutrition. Some studies have shown that these plant-based chemicals, or phytonutrients help prevent one or more chronic, debilitating and often deadly diseases by boosting immunity or ridding the body of damaging free radicals.

It's easy to add colour to your diet. Toss up fruits vegetables raw, steamed, grilled or baked -- make your plate a canvas and paint each meal with life-giving colours.

The trick is to include as many plant-based foods in your daily diet as possible, always including their colorful skins which often have the richest sources of protective phytonutrients, with the paler flesh. Try to avoid peeling foods like apples, peaches and eggplants because peeling removes their most concentrated source of beneficial nutrients.

Make sure to wash the food items well before consuming.

You can also derive the nutritional content of fruit and vegetables from their colours:

  • Green: Contains fibre, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and beta-carotene. These nutrients serve to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and aid digestion.
  • Some examples of green fruit and veggies include green apples, grapes, broccoli, spinach and cabbage.
  • Red: Contains lycopene, beta-carotene and anthocyanins. These lower the risk of heart-disease and cancer.
  • Some examples of red fruit and veggies include strawberries, watermelon, pomegranate, tomatoes, red radishes and beetroots.
  • Yellow and orange: Contain carotenoids, Vitamin C and potassium. They help keep your bones healthy, promote eye health and are good for your skin.
  • Some examples of yellow/orange fruit and veggies include apricots, oranges, mangoes, carrots and pumpkins.
  • Blue and purple: Contain Vitamin C, fibre and flavonoids. They fight inflammation, protect the urinary tract and are good for the brain.
  • Some examples of blue/purple fruit and veggies include blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, eggplant and purple cabbage.
Balancing Tips:

  • Get at least 6 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
  • 1 serving of fruit or veg = 1 extra-small banana, 1 small orange, 1 small apple, 1 small guava and 1/2 a cup of cooked vegetable.
  • Freshly-prepared fruit juice (not more than 4 oz and no sugar added). One glass of tomato juice, for instance, supplies 50 percent of the recommended lycopene.
  • Add fruits to your breakfast cereal, salads, yoghurts and desserts
  • Drink fruit milkshakes and smoothies.
  • Find your treasure, maximise benefits and be nutrition-rich!

Kanchan Saggi is a dietician working with NutritionVista.com -- visit their website for more health-related features.


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