Detox, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, clean and other keywords are nowadays trending. They have all in one way or another the same goal, eating healthy. They usually require special plans or items in order to achieve whatever they are designed for and they have their reason to exist. Nevertheless eating healthy is very simple and you can do it with one simple trick in mind: think colours, think rainbow!
What sounds weird at first, is simple at last: Vegetables and fruits have different colours and those colours are different for plenty of reasons.
The different colours are placeholders for different micro nutrients and mixing up the colours on your plate means you’ll eat a wide array of different micro nutrients. That’s the theory and it’s simple.
The Power of Five: The Five Colours
This is not a new concept and it has been known for ages in Japanese cooking culture. The concept of the power of five consists of the five senses, colours, tastes, ways (i.e. preparation of food) and attitude. I’d like to focus a little on the five colours.
In Japanese cooking culture (same goes for Chinese) there are five different colours linked to food: white, black (blue, purple), red, green and yellow and it’s believed to be best to include all five of them in every meal. Foods consisting of all of those five colours enhance nutritional and visual value.
So try to colour it up and get rid of your monochrome food variations as much and often as possible.
Furthermore, the preservation of the original colours of produce has such an important value in Japanese cuisine that they have a proper term for it. They call this process iroage which literally means “raise colour”. Iroage and its emphasis on preserving colours has not only visual reasons. The main advantage of iroage is simple: the shinier the produce (especially greens) the more nutrients it still contains.
So what are those colours good for?
Before answering the question let’s first take a quick look at what makes the colours in the first place. It’s something called phytochemicals, which is a naturally occurring chemical compound. Those phytochemicals, which are basically pigments, can be classified into four major groups, being betalains, carotenoids, chlorophylls and flavonoids. Here’s a small and simplified overview of the major phytochemicals:
|betalains||Mainly red to violet, but also yellow to orange||All sorts of beets|
|carotenoids||Shades of orange, red, pink and yellow||Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, orange peppers, butternut squash, mangos|
|chlorophylls||Green||Basically all green plant parts|
|flavonoids||Shades of yellow, blue, red and purple||Can be found in many berries but also papaya, peaches, oranges, tangerines|
When you tap into the rainbow plate, you actually provide your body with a wide range of nutrients. So instead of loading up on the same nutrients over and over again, you give your body everything it needs for a healthy diet.
Different vitamins, folic acid, antioxidants, folate, bromelain (an enzyme), calcium, iron… you get the idea. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are generally low in fat, sodium and for most also in calories. On top of that, they are rich in fibre which is great for your digestion too.
Mixing up your colours has even more positive side effects, such as the potential to lower your cholesterol, a decreased risk of certain cancers, promotion of bone health, increased body immunity, improved memory function, a healthy heart. The list goes on, but the main idea is that the rainbow diet gives your body plenty of fuel to strengthen itself from inside out and all you need to do is eat your colours!
Inspired yet? Try it yourself and cook in colours!
In case your diet was monochrome in the past, it’s a little hard to break your old habits. I was in a similar position a few years ago until I figured I needed to change. What I did to start with is to add peppers (preferably 3 different colours), carrots, red and spring onions to my savoury dishes. That’s easily four colours on your plate!
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I did this stoically until I moved forward trying different vegetables. Now I’m at a point in where I miss my vegetables if I don’t have them. Your fruit intake can be colourful in form of a fruit salad as dessert. Get four different fruits, best would be seasonal produce, chop them into small junks, drizzle some lime juice, brown sugar and cinnamon over it, mix and enjoy.
If that still sounds too troublesome how about an oriental beef stew? Or a very delicious and easy to make spinach frittata? Maybe you’re more of a soup person, then have a very colourful chicken soup! Maybe you want it spicier, with more protein, a few carbs and some veggies? Well then have a look at my spicy jalapeño cheeseburger with bacon. Maybe you aren’t a beef burger kind of person, then have a look at my spicy shrimp burger with a side of vegetables.