Guest blog post by Fiona Kane from Informed Health
Results from Australia’s largest nutrition survey of over 13,000 people found many Australians are falling short of their daily requirements of vegetables and fruit.
A healthy diet contains several serves of vegetables a day and a small amount of fruit (depending on the needs of the individual). Nature provides various nutrients in colourful packaging, so when you have a lovely colourful meal, not only does is look wonderful but it provides a wide range of nutrients and flavours. The various colours/pigments contain their own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called phytochemicals. Here are some examples:
White plants contain a range of health-promoting phytochemicals such as allicin which is known for its strong antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties (allicin is found in garlic). Bananas and potatoes are a good source of potassium.
Green plants contain a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids, indoles and saponins, all of which have anti-cancer properties. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are also a source of magnesium, calcium and folate.
Orange/yellow plants contain various carotenoids including betacarotene and lutein. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots contain betacarotene which can be converted to vitamin A; it helps maintain healthy eyes and healthy mucous membranes. Lutein is stored in the eye and it essential for eye health; it helps prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
Purple/blue plants contain flavonoids and anthocyanin compounds which both have antioxidant properties; these protect cells from damage and can help reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Red plants contain a natural plant pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of cancer and keep a healthy heart. Cooked tomatoes are a wonderful source of lycopene which is also an excellent nutrient for prostate health.
Many fruit and vegetables also contain vitamin C, an essential nutrient required by the body for the development and maintenance of blood vessels and cartilage. Vitamin C is also necessary to create energy, various neurotransmitters and hormones. Vitamin C also reduces oxidative stress on the body and reduces cancer risk. Some foods high in vitamin C include dark leafy greens, kiwis, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas and capsicum.
The other great advantage of eating plenty of vegetables is that they contain fibre which can help keep you regular and help to encourage healthy bacterial growth in the digestive system. The bacteria in your body are important for good health; they help to make vitamins and a strong immune system plus so much more.
Get your children involved in making meals/salads, adding the herbs and choosing the different coloured vegetables. The challenge of creating a rainbow on your plate can be fun!
Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre