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Paint Your Plate: A Foodie’s Guide To Rainbow Eating

Farzanah Nasser @farzanahnasser_nutrition, nutrition and functional medicine practitioner and Brand Ambassador for super supplement brand Revive Active gives her guide to how and why you should brighten up your diet.

Statistics from Public Health England show that only 31% adults and 8% teenagers meet the bare minimum recommendation of eating ‘5 A Day’1. An adequate daily intake of fruits and vegetables is so important for all aspects of our health. It can help to support immunity, reduce disease risk, and improve overall health.

With Summer approaching – and an array of nutrient dense, home-grown produce widely available in the UK, there’s never been a better time to “eat the rainbow”. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling further afield this Summer you may also get the chance to incorporate more unusual or less widely available foods into your diet – from roasted fennel and aubergines in “blue zone” countries such as Sardinia to the ripe orange mangoes in far eastern lands such as Thailand.

 

Why is it important to eat a rainbow?

Different colours in foods contain different vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and nutrients. Phytochemicals simply mean plant chemicals which have benefits and support our health and wellbeing. (e.g. lycopene, resveratrol, epigallocatechin gallate), many of which function as antioxidants too. These compounds are referred to as “non-nutritive” because they do not supply calories like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

 

Colour me happy

What you eat is powerful and does impact how you feel. In fact, a recent study shows that increasing fruit and vegetable intake increases happiness, life satisfaction & well-being.  The research2, published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows that even increasing intake by one plant makes a difference, but you need to be consistent and keep it up. Whether it’s going from one to two potions a day or from 1 to 5 – all change is positive. It could be adding some seeds or berries to your porridge, snacking on a piece of fruit, or adding a portion of veg to your dinner, it all counts!

You should aim to include a wide variety of different coloured plants in your meals wherever possible. Phytonutrients in food come in all different colours—green, yellow, orange, red, blue, purple, white, tan, and brown. To promote good health, it is important to eat fruits and vegetables in a variety of colours each day. Eating at least one serving of each colour per day is an excellent goal.

 

Get to know the nutritional “colour chart”

When you “paint your plate” think of ways you can add more colour. Whatever meal you’re eating, go through the colours of the rainbow and see what can be added.

For example, if you have a bowl of porridge think of how you can add colour:

  • Blue: add a handful of blueberries or mixed berries to support brain health and help you focus
  • Yellow: sprinkle over some powdered turmeric to give it a golden hue and anti-inflammatory goodness
  • Green: scatter some pumpkin seeds on top to increase zinc and support your immune system
  • White – spoon over some greek yoghurt to get in some beneficial bacteria to support gut and immune health
  • Brown – add a teaspoon of almond butter for some healthy fats, hormone support and also help keep blood sugar levels more balanced and energy better.

A “food first” approach always delivers the best biggest nutritional “punch”, but I do appreciate that there are times when it’s difficult to prepare or buy the “right” type of foods. Travelling is a good example of this, with limited choice in motorway service stations and airports with an abundance of ultra processed foods. That’s why I always recommend taking a quality, scientifically formulated supplement with no stimulants. My family all take Zest Active, an easy one-a-day sachet with a formula of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants that can be mixed into a hydrating drink. to support energy, brain and immunity. Equally packed with classic “colour palette” vitamins C, D and K, as well as 150mg of CoQ10, is super supplement Revive Active. This supplement plays a critical role in the creating of cellular energy and can support heart health, thyroid function and normal fertility.  So, when you choose the right, high quality supplements, it provides an easy and convenient way to paint your plate.

Here’s a handy guide that I give to my clients to help them shop and eat the rainbow:

 

Follow this “at-a-glance” guide to some of the benefits phytonutrients’ many provide:

  • Red foods contain lycopene: naturally found in cooked tomatoes, spinach and kale. Lycopene has been shown to support prostate health. Lycopene also found in foods like watermelon protect the skin from damage.
  • Orange foods contains carotenoids: foods such as carrots, papaya, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. They have antioxidant properties, reduce inflammation and support brain health. Turmeric root is also included in this group of phytonutrients.
  • Yellow foods contain the plant chemical rutin and hesperidin: naturally found in citrus fruits and it has been shown to support cardiovascular function and reduce inflammation
  • Polyphenols found in green tea have been shown to counteract UV-induced inflammation in the skin3. There are many other benefits of green vegetables including blood vessel and brain health. One study4 showed that eating 1-2 servings per day of green leafy vegetables was the equivalent of being 11 years younger compared to those to rarely or never ate them.
  • Blue/ purples/ red berries contain a photochemical called anthocyanins, which are beneficial for brain health. One study showed that eating strawberries on a regular basis was associated with a 34% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s dementia compared to people who rarely ate strawberries5. Another study6 found that children who ate blueberries had better focus and concentration.
  • Betacyanin: found in beetroots, has been shown to have antioxidant properties for cellular health and also reduce blood pressure
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