Incorporating colour in your diet
Colour food can make eating more interesting and exciting. Using colour foods make eating more appealing. Eating a range of food will help ensure you meet your daily nutritional requirements. It is recommended by the national Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) that we aim to consume 5 different types of vegetable per day and 2 types of fruit.
Why is it good to vary the type of vegetables and fruit?
Reaching your fruit and vegetable requirements through variety is better than meeting them with only 2 or 3 different kinds of fruit and veg. This is because a diversity of fruits and vegetables is best for optimal health and prevention of disease.
For example, 3 serves of peas and 2 serves of carrot per day is less beneficial than eating 1 serve of tomato, carrot, broccoli, egg plant and cauliflower. However, 5 serves of vegetables per day even with little variety is still preferable to fewer than 5 serves of vegetables!!
How do they prevent disease?
Fruit and vegetables of differing colours have unique compounds that all contribute their own benefits. By eating a range of colours, you are increasing the variety of compounds and properties you receive and are reaping the individual health benefits they each provide. On the other hand, eating foods that are similar in colour generally provides you with similar protective compounds.
Colour foods may include
Below are examples of the beneficial properties that different coloured fruit and vegetables provide.
Red: These foods contain a property known as lycopene which gives the red colour to fruit and vegetables. This compound is linked with a reduction in the risk of heart disease, macular degenerative disease and the prevention/ treatment of some cancers. Lycopene is best known for its potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. This is due to lycopene being a potent antioxidant.
Tomato has the highest concentration of lycopene and other good sources include watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit and guava. Consuming tomato that has been cooked makes the lycopene more readily available.
The role lycopene plays in the risk reduction for cancer remains controversial due to differing findings. Despite this, several studies have shown that those consuming lysopene rich diets do have lower risk of cancer so it is certainly beneficial to eat your reds regardless!
Orange and yellow: These vegetables and fruit get their colour from a pigment known as beta-carotene. This property promotes good vision, skin health, a strong immune system and protects against macular degeneration. These benefits can be credited to Vitamin A which is what beta carotene is converted to in the body. This is why you may have heard people saying carrots help with your vision at night!
Being an antioxidant, beta carotene also protects against molecules known as ‘free radicals’ which can cause chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Beta carotene is found in carrots, squash, sweet potato and orange/ yellow capsicum. The foods with a more intense colour will have greatest levels of beta carotene.
Green: Green fruits and vegetables contain zeaxanthin and lutein. These properties are thought to reduce the risk of age related eye disease. There has also been emerging evidence in their prevention of stroke and heart disease.
Zeaxanthin and lutein is found mostly in dark green, leafy vegetables.
Blue/ purple: Fruit and vegetables of these colours contain anthocyanins. These properties have been suggested to decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Anthocyanins are found in foods like blueberries and egg plant.
White: Sulforaphane is the protective property in these fruit and vegetables. A compound that is thought to protect against cancer in two ways.
Sulphoraphane is found in cauliflower. It is the sulphoraphane that is present in cruciferous vegetables such a broccoli and cauliflower that has long been thought to reduce the risk of cancer.
Despite some controversy surrounding the exact benefits of individual colour pigments, it is known that consuming a wide variety (and colour) of vegetables and fruit together will reduce the risk of cancer and other lifestyle diseases.
It may be difficult to definitively say that certain food pigments will prevent cancer and certain diseases but nevertheless, there is promising evidence to support this.
All in all, eating a wide range of colours will only be of benefit to your body and health!
If you have questions about colour foods or need advice for fussy eaters, contact ENT Clinic on 1300 123 368 and make an appointment with our dietitian Belinda Elwin.