Who doesn’t like colour? Have you ever wondered how would our body benefit by including different colours in our daily meals? Just like how colours add elegance and life onto a dull paper, similarly, colours add nutritional value to our bodies. When I talk about colours, I am not referring to the colourful desserts, sugary cereals or beverages. It’s the spectrum of fruits and vegetables which are being emphasized on.
An attractive and colourful meal is eaten better than a meal which has less or no colour at all. Natural compounds which give colour to fruits and vegetables are called phytochemicals. Diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables are known to protect our body from harmful substances through these phytochemicals which are mostly antioxidants. Therefore, fruits and vegetables are often termed as protective foods or immunity boosting foods.
Eating a variety of colours through these foods will provide essential nutrients naturally. However, getting the right amount of foods from the major food groups is more important than making a rainbow.
Let us dwell deep and relate each colour with different foods and how to incorporate them in our daily meals to get the maximum benefit.
Antioxidants like lycopene, anthocyanins and ellagic acid provide the red colour to Tomatoes, all red berries and pomegranate respectively.
Lycopene is best absorbed in the body through cooked tomatoes.
- Add chopped tomatoes to omelettes, salads, burritos.
- Add pomegranate, strawberries to smoothies, porridges and yogurt.
Carotenoids like beta carotene provide this colour to foods like orange, papaya, carrot, pumpkin, muskmelon, dried apricot. These foods not only provide antioxidants but also provide fibre and potassium.
- Add these fruits to yogurt or smoothies.
- Can snack on carrot sticks dipped in hummus
This bright colour is given by carotenoids again. It is found in foods like lemon, sweetcorn, yellow bell pepper, egg yolk and fruits like mango and peach. Lemon has an additional benefit of enhancing the absorption of iron through the presence of vitamin C. Egg yolk is also a good source of iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
- Adding flavour to salads, pulse preparations and vegetable curries. Lemon juice can also be made as a hydrating drink, particularly during summers.
- Yellow bell pepper and corn can be used in different salad and pasta preparations.
This colour without a doubt has a wide variety of foods. Chlorophyll pigments imparts the green pigment to them. All Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, avocado, capsicum, cucumbers, green peas, bottle gourd, green grapes and kiwi fall under this colour code.
- Can add greens to roti dough, dal, pasta and omelette.
- Inclusion of greens into soups, salads and nonveg preparations.
- Can make guacamole with avocado.
Anthocyanins give the blue and purple colour to foods like beetroot, brinjal, purple lettuce, purple grapes, blackberries and mulberries.
- Can add them to salads
- Can make smoothies
Anthoxanthins create the white colour in foods like onions, garlic, potatoes, radish, turnips, mushrooms, bananas and white peaches.
- Use potatoes with skin to get the benefit of fibre from them and switch to cooking methods like boiling and baking instead of deep frying.
- Use garlic in various dishes like soups, dal, salads, spreads for a strong flavour.
- Bananas can be eaten stand alone or used in smoothies, porridges and healthy desserts.
A balanced meal plate should contain a third of complex carbohydrates comprising of whole grains, a third of protein rich foods, a third of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are particularly colourful, so a rainbow plate can help you to embrace the wide colour palette.