Colour on my Plate
A for Apple, B for Beet, C for Carrot….that’s how we learnt the alphabets. And with good reason too, for their bright colours and texture make it a visual delight to kids. But did you know that other than being great learning aids, the colours of fruits and vegetables are markers of nutrition? For instance, the pigment that makes an apple red is actually also what makes it so healthy.
The Rainbow Diet is one which uses the colours of natural produce as ways to eat healthy. It proposes a plateful of food that includes something of each colour; red, green, yellow-orange, blue-purple and white as a way to consume the necessary nutrients. Studies have shown that the chemical responsible for the colour of a particular fruit is also the source of its nutrition. Called phytonutrients, these chemicals can help to prevent or even reverse chronic, debilitating and often deadly diseases. In fact, the deeper the colour of the fruit or vegetable, the higher it will be on the protection score and antioxidant value. The antioxidant property of the fruit/vegetable is directly proportional to the depth or density of its colour. These nutrients are concentrated in the bright skins of the fruits and vegetables. So it makes sense not to discard the peels of green apples, pears, grapes, plums, eggplants and so on.
Strawberries, watermelon, red rice are loaded with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins which are believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots. They also protect against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease. Orange foods like carrots, mangoes, cantaloupes and pumpkins are rich in the cancer-fighter alpha carotene that protects the skin against free-radical damage and promotes repair of damaged DNA. Greens like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and bok choy have cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens.
There are so many great ways to incorporate these colours into your regular diet. Salads, stir-fries, sandwiches are the usual ways to up one’s fruit and veggie intake. But think out of the box, like an artist. Using an empty white plate as a canvas, there are so many exciting and tasty ways to get the most of food. Try roasting red and purple baby carrots with radishes and baby potatoes for a hearty, healthy meal. Experiment with millet flours for breads of varying shades. Spice things up (at the dinner table) with a colour wheel of condiments. Choose from unctuous black bean sauce, pinkish yellow mustard, fiery red sambal paste, aromatic bottle green pesto to flavour pasta, noodle dishes, pizza, sandwiches and more. Carefully segment oranges, slice pears, apples and kumquats with pomegranate arils for a bejewelled and refreshing salad. For a sweet and fun treat, bake a rainbow cake dyed with colours extracted from spinach, beetroots and red cabbage. It’s a great way to bond with the kids while offering a super cool science lesson.
So, go ahead and explore the colour dimension of fruits and vegetables and make your meals delightful with an array of colourful ingredients.