If humans can see colours so well, it’s because it’s actually important for us to pay attention to them in our diet. Cooking is an art, the most colourful plates are also the most appealing. And we are more likely to enjoy eating an attractive meal! As it’s recommended to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day, this section itself represents over a third of the food we eat each day. So let’s go through each colour category and what it actually means for us.
Vegetables in this category include: cauliflower, garlic, shallots, onions, leeks, parsnips, white beans (cannellini, lima beans, navy beans, soybeans), potatoes, brown lentils, mushrooms. Fruits in this category include: bananas (considered white), pears, lychees, white peaches, white nectarine.
Properties and health benefits: White foods get their pigment from anthoxanthins, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Mushrooms, parsnips and bananas are also good sources of potassium, an important mineral for normal heart and muscle function. White fruits and vegetables protect against certain cancers, keep bones strong, and are a heart-healthy choice.
Note: despite being a vegetable, potatoes don’t count in the recommended 5-a-day because they’re classed as a starchy food (from a nutrition perspective). Although, they are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium! Just avoid adding fat when cooking them and eat the skin for extra fibre.
Vegetables in this category include: butternut squash, swede, yellow peppers, sweetcorn. Fruits in this category include: honeydew melon, lemons, pineapple.
Properties and health benefits: yellow foods are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Yellow peppers contain nutrients (lutein and zeaxanthin) that help prevent and slow the progression of eye disease.
Vegetables in this category include: carrots, orange peppers, pumpkin, sweet potatoes. Fruits in this category include: cantaloupe melon, mangoes, nectarines, apricots.
Properties and health benefits: orange foods are high in carotenoids, converted to vitamin A in the body. It helps us make hormones and keeps our eyes healthy (just in case you were wondering why people say that “eating carrots will help you see in the dark”). Apart from carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin and sweet potato are all good sources of vitamin A.
Note: yellow and orange categories are often put together because of their similar properties. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are low in vitamin A but high in vitamin C, which helps with the absorption of iron and wound healing, as well as protecting cells from damage. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables improve immune function, reduce the risk of heart disease and promote eye health.
Vegetables in this category include: radishes, red peppers, red beans, beets, rhubarb. Fruits in this category include: cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, red apples, tomatoes, watermelon, pomegranate.
Properties and health benefits: red foods contain antioxidants, reported to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Lycopene gives red foods their colour. Red fruits and vegetables help fight cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as improving skin quality.
Vegetables in this category include: asparagus, avocados, celery, courgettes, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, green peas, brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli. Fruits in this category include: green apples, green grapes, limes, kiwis.
Properties and health benefits: green foods get their colour from chlorophyll but are also rich in other nutrients, like sulforaphane and glucosinolate. They may help protect against blood-vessel damage and certain cancers. Green fruits and vegetables boost the immune system, help detoxify the body, restore energy and vitality. By far the healthiest, you can’t go wrong with this colour.
Vegetables in this category include: red cabbage, eggplant, black olives. Fruits in this category include: blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, purple grapes, purple plums, prunes.
Properties and health benefits: blue and purple foods get their colour from powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. They may have a role in protecting cells from damage. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables fight cancer and unwanted inflammation and help keep you young.
- Should you eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables? – British Heart Foundation
- How to Eat the Rainbow: 5 Shades of Nutrients – Goodnet
- Why You Should Paint Your Diet with Every Color – Shape
- Colourful healthy foods for well-being – Saga
- Eat the Rainbow: The Secret to a Healthier Gut – Craft Smoothie
Everyone loves a good rainbow! Don’t forget to eat varied colours to guarantee a healthy diet! (I’m not talking about skittles…). You can also check this super useful infographic about the benefits of eating the rainbow.
Is your food colourful enough?
Big Girl x