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Eat the colours of the rainbow

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Colourful fruits and vegetables not only look appealing, but can make all the difference to your health, says Shalini Arvind

We have grown up hearing that we can find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, if not a pot of gold, we can at least get a healthy life if we follow the rainbow diet.

Any individual’s personal effort to sustain a healthy lifestyle entails the consumption of healthy, unprocessed food. It not only increases their productivity, but also keeps away various diseases. Since the food intake differs from person to person, every hospital has a nutritionist who can curate a customised menu for the patient. Every patient has different needs that vary depending on their medical condition, and this forms a base for their diet plan. What helps us make the food appealing is the colour of the fruits and vegetables and these colours also add to the nutritional value of the food.

Phytochemicals are the chemical compounds present in fruits and vegetables, and  these play an important role in therapeutic nutrition. Adding just five to six servings of fruits and vegetables can prevent cardiovascular diseases among patients, and improve gut health, vision, and skin. This is because they enrich a person with powerful antioxidants that boost their immune system and provide protection.

Red-coloured fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lowers blood pressure, tumour growth and LDL cholesterol levels. This group includes beets, cherries, cranberries, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit, etc. They help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and diabetes. These fruits and vegetables contain a plant compound called carotenoids, which, in turn, contains beta-carotene, which is then converted into Vitamin A once a patient consumes it. Vitamin A improves the immune system of a person, promotes bone growth and regulates cell growth and division. Lutein and zeaxanthin along with Vitamin A are important for healthy vision.

Fruits and vegetables which are orange and yellow in colour contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and Vitamin C. These nutrients reduce age-related macular degeneration, prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition to these health benefits, they not only ensure healthy joints with the formation of collagen, but also maintain the alkaline balance, and increase production of magnesium and calcium. Some of them include apricots, muskmelons, carrots, lemon, mangoes, oranges, papayas. These help in developing healthy skin too.

Dark green vegetables like spinach, fenugreek leaves, radish leaves, broccoli, coriander leaves are powerhouses of a functional food component. A meal without greens is considered incomplete. They are rich in chlorophyll, fibre, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B, calcium, and beta-carotene. Green fruits and vegetables have been observed to reduce the risk of cancer, enhance retinal clarity and health, and boost immunity.

A good immune system can reduce the risk of diseases and also help us recover faster. Consuming whites can help in achieving that. These fruits and vegetables include beta-glucans and lignans that provide powerful immune-boosting activity. These nutrients also activate lymphocytes involved in adaptive immunity (B and T cells), reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers. Some of the whites that can be included in the diet are bananas, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots and turnips.

Including these in a diet can go a long way in getting a pot of gold in the form of healthy life.

Shalini Arvind is Chief Dietician, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore

Short Takes

Phytochemicals are the chemical compounds present in fruits and vegetables, and  these play an important role in therapeutic nutrition.

The rainbow diet, with colourful fruits and veggies, can make all the difference.

Adding just five to six servings of fruits and vegetables can prevent cardiovascular diseases among patients, and helps in improving the gut health, vision and skin.

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