Why eat a rainbow of fresh foods?
The key to a healthy diet is variety. Fresh produce is important for good health and should make up the bulk of your diet, with five servings of vegetables a day and two of fruit.
White food health benefits
White vegies contain nutrients including selenium, B vitamins and vitamin C. Garlic and onion contain sulphur compounds which can have anti-cancer and heart-health effects, while mushrooms provide more vitamin B12 and D than many other plant foods.
TIP: Try adding cauliflower, mushrooms and garlic to stir-fries, and potatoes, swedes and turnips to tasty and satisfying winter casseroles.
Orange/yellow food health benefits
These sunny vegies and fruit boast nutrients including beta-carotene, vitamin C and A, potassium and carotenoids, which are antioxidants that have been linked to the prevention of certain cancers and heart disease. Carrots are the richest source of beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that’s converted to vitamin A by the body and is also involved in boosting immune function.
TIP: Orange/yellow vegies such as carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin are delicious roasted and added to salads. Fruits of the same colour spectrum, such as apricots and mangoes, are great for snacks and for making healthy desserts.
Red food health benefits
Red produce contains nutrients including vitamin C and folate, as well as the powerful antioxidant, lycopene. Hailed for its ability to protect the prostate gland, the lycopene present in cooked tomatoes may also protect the skin from sunburn by helping it guard against harmful UV rays. Plus, Harvard researchers found women who ate two or more servings of strawberries a week were less likely to have elevated C-reactive protein levels, a blood biomarker that signals the presence of inflammation in the body.
TIP: Add red vegetables such as chilli, capsicum and tomatoes for a hearty pasta sauce, while red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries are a good cereal topping.
Finish all your greens and you’ll get a dose of nutrients including vitamin A, iron, calcium and the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect your eyes. In addition, they also provide sulforaphane, which has been shown to have significant anti-cancer effects.
TIP: Try sautéing spinach with garlic; add lightly steamed broccoli to salads, and spread avocado on a sandwich instead of butter. Include green fruits such as kiwifruit and honeydew melons in fruit salads.
Purple/blue food health benefits
These vegies contain nutrients including vitamin C, manganese and fibre, as well as anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that may enhance brain function, slow the mental decline associated with ageing and promote heart health.
TIP: Include purple cabbage and Spanish onions in a bright coleslaw, and chargrill eggplant or roast beetroot for nutritious side dishes. In summer, snack on fresh blueberries, and during autumn and winter, add the frozen variety to porridge.