12 Mar Rainbow Nutrition
Yes, you can eat the rainbow! One of the most wildly enjoyable things about a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is the array of vivid, visually enticing colours you can put on your plate (and of course, in your mouth!). Aside from presenting beautifully at any dinner party (or even when eating alone), you’ve got a taste explosion with every bite and an array of nutrition that is feeding your body so much goodness, energy and longevity.
Gently Vegan chatted to Karina Francois, naturopath and author of Clean Food, Clear Thinking about the effect oh the rainbow nutrition, various hues of vegetarian food have on our mind, body and general health and wellness.
“Fruits and vegetables come in different colours,” says Karina, “and while they’re indeed beautiful, it’s not just for visual effect. Each of these colours is the result of certain antioxidants, phytonutrients and nutrients.” With each meal, aim to have at least three to five different colours of vegetables on your plate, or in your Goddess Bowl with Quinoa, and you should have your health needs fairly sorted, advises Karina. Here’s a handy guide.
PURPLE AND BLUE “This colour is due to the fruit’s anthocyanin content,” explains Karina. “Anthocyanin’s are antioxidants that provide numerous benefits for the heart. The darker the blue colour, the higher the concentration of phytochemicals in it. Blueberries and blackberries are especially known for their very high antioxidant levels. Look for: Eggplants, beetroots, pomegranates, plums, prunes, purple grapes
GREEN “Green leafy vegetables are rich in chlorophyll, as well as powerful antioxidants known as isothicyanates that are responsible for warding off inflammation, disease and illness,” says Karina. “These help to flush or detox the liver. Green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and spinach also contain several other anticancer compounds. The green cruciferous vegetables (Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Broccoli) are rich in Vitamin K, folic acid, potassium etc.” Eat plenty of: Bok Choy, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, string beans
YELLOW/GREEN These vegetables and fruits are rich in Lutein, which is very important for eye health. “Lutein is especially necessary for the prevention of age related macular degeneration,” States Karina. “Some of these green-yellow fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamin C, which is important for immunity, skin health and general wellbeing.” Include these foods daily when in season: Avocado, Kiwi, spinach, pistachio nuts, squash, yellow capsicum. RED The main pigment that gives the red color to fruits and vegetables is Lycopene, explains Karina. “Lycopene is useful for protecting prostate health and maintaining healthy breast tissue. It is a powerful antioxidant. Red fruits and vegetables are also rich in other potent antioxidants including flavonoids, resveratrol and vitamin C, as well as folates. Resveratrol is abundant in the skin of red grapes and is an antioxidant which is being investigated for its cancer preventive properties and anti-ageing.” Eat plenty of: Grapes, cranberries, tomatoes, watermelons, guava, pink grapefruit, capsicum, chilli, raspberries and watermelon.
YELLOW/ORANGE “Carotenoids or beta-carotene is responsible for the yellow-orange-red pigment certain fruits and vegetables,” says Francois. “These are extremely rich in vitamin A and retinol, which aids in acne and wrinkle prevention. Vitamin A is needed for strong immune function and healthy vision. Beta carotenes are strong antioxidants and have been intensively researched in the prevention of cancers of the stomach, oesophagus and other cancers.” Find them in: Mangoes, apricots, carrots, pumpkins, squash, lemons, carrots, grapefruit, yellow watermelon, sweet potato (orange) and pumpkin
WHITE White vegetables often get a bad rap, but they can never be underestimated, says Karina. They are each their own little parcel of nutritional goodness. White Potatoes: Packed with potassium, which helps the muscles contract and relax, magnesium which helps the entire body enter a state of relaxation and fibre to keep you regular, potatoes are their own form of superfood – when eaten properly and in moderation, that is. There also loaded with vitamin C, so great for skin health and immunity. Karina suggest the best way to eat them is steamed and served with plenty of other vegetables. Leave the skin on for extra fibre and nutritional benefits and limit your intake to twice a month. And of course, avoid deep frying, sugary sauces, or over processing so you don’t negate their goodness. Remember, the darker the skin and flesh, the more nutrient a potato will have! White Mushrooms “White mushrooms are loaded with anti-viral properties, so if you’re feeling a flu coming on, sip on mushroom soup, brew up a broth or stick some in a stir fry,” says Karina. “They also pack a healthy punch with healing zinc, potassium, selenium niacin, phosphorous and protein.” Cauliflower From mash to steak to an entire roast – the humble cauliflower truly has become a vegan’s best friend in recent years. And it can do no wrong. It’s tasty, full of texture and ever-so-healthy, so get it on your plate as much as you can. “You’ll reap intense antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, support eye health, help balance hormones and even support weight management,” says Karina.
Karina Francois is a Melbourne-based naturopath and international author whose work is valued the world over. Her clinic, Infinite Health, is based in Brunswick, Victoria. You can purchase her book Clean Food, Clear Thinking at all good book stores, or online at: infinitehealthpractice.com.au
Interview with Lifestyle and Beauty editor Shonagh Walker