Eat Your Colours Part 1: Red Fruits and Vegetables
You might have heard the expression “eat your colours”. Of course, these are about fruits and vegetables, which are often powerhouses of nutrients, get their colours from specific chemicals that have benefits to our health.
A popular approach when trying to maintain or lose your weight is restricting calories. If you are counting calories, fill your daily calorie budget with the stuff that counts. Restricting healthy sources of calories deprives your body macronutrients, micronutrients, and phytonutrients.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are organic substances that are essential in very small amounts. The body does not typically produce micronutrients; they need to be obtained from your diet. When consumed all together they have cumulative effect and enhance each other’s influence on your overall health, including your mental capacity and immune system.
There are two main groups of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.
Besides macronutrients and micronutrients, another class of nutrients called phytonutrients are important for overall health and weight control. Their name comes from the Greek word for plant phyto. Phytonutrients are nature-made chemicals found in plant food, they provide a variety of health benefits. More than 25,000 known phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Typically the colour of the fruit or vegetable indicates the type of phytonutrients it contains.
In a healthy diet you are supposed to have 10 to 12 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables of various colors each day. One portion is about a cup in most cases. Most people do not approach this amount on daily basis.
This is where supplements might help. Supplements are intended to be a valuable addition to your healthy diet and not a replacement of a real food!
Start Seeing Red
Red- colored fruits and vegetables are rich in lycopene, ellagic acid, and quercetin. Lycopene is a nutrient in the carotenoid family. It is currently the most powerful antioxidant which has been measured in food and is thought to play a role in preventing cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration. The presence of lycopene pigment gives red and pink fruits their color. Ellagic acid is a polyphenol known as an antioxidant. Quercetin, a plant pigment, is a potent antioxidant from the flavonoid family.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals can cause harm if their levels become too high in your body. Free radicals are molecules that can develop in ways that are harmful. They’re linked to multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Red-coloured fruits and vegetables reduce your risk of prostate cancer, reducing free radicals in the body and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and also contain decent amounts of folate (vitamin B9) and potassium.
- Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. They also contain manganese and vitamin K, which both play a role in bone health. They also supply smaller amounts of vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium.
- Cherries are packed with nutrients, they contain vitamin C, potassium, copper, manganese
- Beets are packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C.
- Tomatoes have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content including calcium, potassium, phosphorus
- Bell peppers are packed with vitamins and low in calories! They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. Bell peppers also contain a healthy dose of fiber, folate, and iron.
Here are a few ideas of the dishes with red-coloured fruits and vegetables, just in case you would like to have some fun with it:
- For breakfast – strawberries (raspberries are a good alternative, or the mix of both) with yogurt. Adding nuts and seeds to the bowl of berries will keep you full for a longer period of time.
- For lunch – smoked fish sandwich with tomato salad and bell peppers
- For dinner – grilled or fried pieces of salmon with red potatoes and beets salad.
- A balanced snack – Raspberry or strawberries with Jell-O – a great treat on a hot summer day.
Photo by Davor Nisevic at Unsplash.