What does the term eat a rainbow mean:- Eating a rainbow simply means inculcating foods of different colors to your plate, not simply for the aesthetic, but for the health benefits that each of these colored foods carries. According to scientific research, these are the properties of the colors of different foods.
The scientific explanation
When food is ingested, it is broken down into vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. According to NCBI, bioactive compounds are constituents in foods or dietary supplements, other than those needed to meet basic human nutritional needs, which are responsible for changes in health status.
Let’s understand how the bioactive compounds present in these foods help our system.
Green foods – Chlorophyll
So, as we all know, leafy green vegetables provide a good source of nutrition for the body. However, the bioactive compound therein is chlorophyll, which has protective properties like antioxidants and anti-mutagenic.
Some chlorophyll-rich foods are:
Matcha Green Tea
Yellow and Orange Foods – Alpha and Beta Carotene
Alpha-carotene is a compound found in yellow foods like:
Beta-carotene is a compound found in orange foods like:
Upon digestion, these bioactive compounds are converted into vitamin A in the body, hence are responsible for providing UV protection to the skin and hold a crucial role in skin health and aging.
Red foods – Lycopene
Lycopene is abundantly found in red and pink foods like:
Red bell pepper
It protects the prostate gland and is beneficial to overall cardiovascular health.
White, Purple, and Blue Foods – Flavonoids
Flavonoids are found in foods like:
Flavonoids like anthocyanin and quercetin are considered to have many bioactive effects like antiviral, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-aging, and so on.
How can you follow a rainbow diet?
1. Incorporate seasonal food:- One of the easier ways to do this is to understand the seasonal fruits and vegetables and incorporate them into your diet. What are the colors that grow during a particular season? Winters are known for rich green, leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranthus, fenugreek, and so on. Include these on your plate.
Link the colors with their benefits.
2. Add colors to the preparation:- Before you start preparing your meal, evaluate how many colors you can add. If you are making pasta, you can add bell peppers, broccoli, baby corn, zucchini, and so on. If you are making dal, you can add tomatoes, onions, and green chilies. Work towards integrating as many colors as you can in your preparation.
3. Microgreens to the rescue! If you find it difficult to get all of this nutrition from one meal, add microgreens! If you closely look at microgreens, you will see colors like green, purple, and blue. If you add even a tablespoon of microgreens to your food, it infuses your diet with bioactive compounds. Add microgreen garnishes to your salads and other preparations.
4. Gut Health:- The gut houses most of the immunity of the body and is equipped entirely with its own ecosystem of microbiomes and flora – which consists of good and bad bacteria and fungi. So when you eat a colorful meal, you are providing your gut with more diversity, which feeds the good bacteria. You are providing your gut with nourishment to help itself and to further supply to the rest of the body.
5. Helps in the development of children:- If you could provide children in their developing years with all the nutrients – vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds on a daily basis, can you imagine how robust their systems would be? Make it a point to add as much nutrition to your child’s plate as possible.
Tip: You can play a game with them, and ask them to simply decorate their plates with colorful foods!
6. Fights against/prevents diseases:- Bioactive compounds offer further benefits to the body, as compared to what the vitamins and minerals in the food are already providing. By increasing your immunity, bioactive compounds fortify the body against diseases and viruses. Diseases like hypertension, cancer, bone diseases, and secondary brain damage (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and so on), can be prevented or managed better with the right exercise, a healthy sleep pattern, emotional wellness, and the rainbow diet.
7. Reduces inflammation:- Inflammation is one of the core problems that can lead to serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, and so on. Including the rainbow diet in your food pumps the body with antioxidants and can help with diseases caused due to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Tip: Carrots and mulberries are known to have high anti-inflammatory properties.
Explore, learn, and understand the things available there. I am sure you will come across some vegetables that you’ve never heard of or seen before – understand the medicinal properties that these can provide to your system. More diversity in your plate through rainbow meals can help revive your gut and replenish your body.
By Dt Shreyoshi Bhaumick Sinha
M.Sc. in Food & Nutrition ( CU )