It’s harvest season! At the farmers’ market yesterday I was struck by the stunning colours of all the fruits and vegetables that are available now. One of the easiest ways to eat well is to try to get as many colours on your plate as possible. This will help to ensure that you’re getting all sorts of potent phytonutrients in your life.
What is a phytonutrient?
Phytonutrients are only found in plants (hence the prefix “phyto”). These chemical substances are what give fruits and vegetables their colour and flavour. They also serve as part of the plant’s defense system. But once we eat phyting foods, their phytonutrients will help to defend us.
Vegetables and fruits are the only sources of phytonutrients – these unique compounds are responsible for preventing many chronic diseases. This is one reason why statistically, vegetarians are at a lower risk.
Since phytonutrients are responsible for the colour of fruits and vegetables, I’ve created a guide to the colours and some of their phytonutrients. There are hundreds of known phytonutrients, and many more unknown. This is only a partial list. For your interest, I’ve also splashed in a little colour energy info (1) and some of my favourite recipes to try, so you can get lots of phyting foods on your side.
Energetically, red foods are said to provide our bodies with energy and vitality.
Betalains are almost solely found in red beets. Betalains can help to increase liver detoxification enzymes and therefore our detoxification potential (2). Betalains can also help to neutralize some of the enzymes responsible for chronic inflammation. Betalains, for the most part, are lost in cooking, so it’s best to consume beets as raw as possible!
Some Healthy Delicious Recipes that feature betalains:
Energetically, orange energy helps us to be sociable, outgoing and optimistic.
Beta carotene is one of the best known carotenoid phytonutrients out there. We know that it’s the stuff that makes our carrots so orange, but it is also present in pumpkins and sweet potatoes. In fact, there is more beta carotene found in sweet potatoes than carrots. Beta carotene is best known for its ability to convert to vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A is essential for beautiful skin and eye health.
Some Healthy Delicious Recipes that feature beta carotene:
Lycopene is a carotenoid nutrient that provides valuable cancer protection. Carotenoids are present in the blood and tissues throughout our bodies, where they act as antioxidants (3). In fact, lycopene is the most abundant carotenoid in the prostate, and offers protection from prostate cancer. Lycopene is also great for the skin and heart, and functions as an internal sunblock of sorts (I think this is why we all enjoy tomato salads and watermelon in the summer heat so much). Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelon and red peppers and is more bioavailable when the tomatoes are heated and there is a little fat present (2).
Some Healthy Delicious Recipes that feature lycopene:
Energetically, blue foods can help us relax, and are said to help transport oxygen into our tissues.
Anthocyanins fall into the flavonoid category of phytonutrients. These compounds help defend the plants themselves from environmental assault. When we ingest foods containing anthocyanins, such as blueberries, blackberries and acai, their anthocyanins help to combat free radical damage in our bodies. We create free radical damage in our bodies by eating fried foods, burnt meat, smoking cigarettes, and even from some of our body’s metabolic processes. Free radical damage can lead to aging and chronic disease.
Some Healthy Delicious Recipes that feature anthocyanins:
Green is known as the “master colour” (4). Green foods are said to promote a loving and understanding nature. Green has been long understood as the colour of balanced strength, progress, renewal and peaceful nature. Green foods are some of the most nourishing and balancing foods available.
Chlorophyll is responsible for giving green veggies their colour. But did you know that chlorophyll is one mere molecule different from our own red blood cells? Where plants have magnesium as the centre molecule, our red blood cells have iron. This is one of the reasons why chlorophyll is known to help conditions such as anemia, high blood pressure and nervousness. Chlorophyll is present in all fruits and vegetables in a small amount, but is found in green vegetables in higher amounts.
Some Healthy Delicious Recipes that feature chlorophyll:
Glucosinolates are found in the brassica family of vegetables, which include broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and bok choy. Studies have found that eating these stinky sulfur-containing veggies on the regular will help to reduce our risk of certain cancers. Once in our body, glucosinolates convert to related compounds called indoles and isothiocyanates, which help to block conversion of sex hormones into a more potent cancer-causing form (2).
Some Healthy Delicious Recipes that feature glucosinolates:
There you have it. Each day, try to get as many of colours on your plate, especially green.
If you found this post helpful, please share it. Wishing you a fall full of phyting foods and antioxidant protection. xo Andrea
1 Nutritional Healing with Colour by Suzy Chiazzari
2 The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan
3 Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
4 Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford