Nutrition, Movement, Spirit, Perspective

Healthy Haven Step 6 - Eat the Colors of the Rainbow

Fruits and Vegetables are thought to be healthy because of the vitamins, minerals, water and fiber that they contain. Although this is true, it is only partially true. In the last few decades, scientists have discovered a new category of protective compounds that Fruits and Vegetables have within them, called ‘Phytochemicals’ (“Phyto” meaning “Plant”). Phytochemicals are found in all plant foods (such as Legumes and Whole Grains), but they are found most abundantly in Fruits and Vegetables.

     There are thousands of different Phytochemicals and they all have their own unique functions within the plant; some regulate the growth of the plant, some help to protect the plant from germs, fungi and insects, and others give the plants their flavor, color and texture, for example. And it is these same Phytochemicals that have also been found to have many various healing functions within the human body, after we consume the food.

     Many Phytochemicals are strong antioxidants, which help protect our bodies from Free Radicals. Free Radicals can be either generated in the human body during the normal functioning of the bodies processes (like during the burning of sugars for energy and the release of digestive enzymes to break down food), or when our bodies interact with pollution (such as car exhaust, heavy metals and cigarette smoke), and also when the body breaks down certain medicines. Free Radicals are known to cause disease and aging in the body, so having a daily intake of Phytochemicals can help to keep our bodies protected from damage.

     Some Phytochemicals have potent Anti-Cancer activity, blocking cell division and helping to rid our bodies of carcinogens. Other Phytochemicals protect us against Heart Disease by reducing cholesterol production, blood pressure, blood clot formation, and damage to blood vessel walls. Many Phytochemicals also have powerful Anti-Inflammatory qualities, while others are Immunity Enhancing.

     Each Color of Fruit and Vegetable represents a different class of Phytochemicals, so it is important to eat a wide range of colorful plant food to ensure you are receiving the full spectrum of Phytochemicals and all of their various functions.

     There are certain foods known to have the highest amounts of Phytochemicals, and these are dark leafy greens (Kale, Collards, and Spinach), cruciferous vegetables (especially broccoli), garlic, tomatoes, blueberries, and citrus fruits. So make sure to stock up on these foods….

     You should also aim to eat at least one food from each of the following Color Groups every day to ensure you are getting a wide range of phytochemicals. Here are the Colors with some Fruit and Vegetable examples….   

GREEN
Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Green Cabbage, Kale, Spinach, Leafy Greens, Peas, Beans, Green Bell Pepper, Kiwi, Honeydew Melon, Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, Bok Choy, Artichokes, Asparagus

GREEN/YELLOW
Avocado, Spinach, Mustard Greens, Green Beans and Collard Greens

ORANGE
Squash, Mangoes, Apricots, Carrots, Pumpkins, Cantaloupe, Yams

ORANGE/YELLOW
Citrus fruit juices, Grapefruit, Oranges, Tangerines, Cantaloupe, Peach, Lemons, Spaghetti Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Pineapples

RED
Tomatoes, Watermelon, Red Cabbage, Strawberries, Red Bell Pepper

PURPLE/RED
Cherries, Berries, Grapes, Beets, Red Wine, Raisins

WHITE
Apples, Pears, Bananas, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Mushroom

WHITE/GREEN
Garlic, Onion, Leeks

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