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Enjoy a rainbow diet for a full spectrum of health benefits
Eat your greens and while you’re at it, don’t forget your reds, oranges, blues and purples. As well as vitamins and minerals, each colour category of fruit and vegetables boasts certain phytochemicals – health-boosting compounds that give them their distinctive hue. “The more colours on your plate the better, but as a general rule, aim for three or four in each meal,” advises accredited practising dietitian Milena Katz.
Red & pink
There are two star pigments here. Lycopene in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon and guava, is best known for its cancer-fighting properties. Anthocyanins, found in strawberries, raspberries, purple grapes, beetroot and red onions, are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis.
Blue & purple
Like certain red and pink-hued plant foods, blue and purple produce contains anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. While it’s still early days for research, it’s thought anthocyanins are also concentrated in brain regions important for learning and memory.
Orange & yellow
Carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches and mangoes get their colour from carotenoids like alpha- and beta-carotene, which convert to vitamin A in the body – vital for healthy skin, vision and immunity. “Vitamin C is a standout nutrient in this colour group, found in citrus fruits,” adds Katz.
They may be pale in colour, but white fruit and vegetables hold their own for nutritional benefits. “Bananas and potatoes are high in potassium, a mineral important for muscular function,” says Katz. And garlic, leeks and onions have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit and avocado are all sources of lutein, which wards off cataracts and macular degeneration, while indoles in cruciferous vegetables protect against breast and prostate cancers. “Leafy greens also contain iron and folate, which reduces the risk of birth defects,” adds Katz.
For more nutrition tips pick up the December issue of Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.